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The Information Audiobook

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

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Publisher's Summary

James Gleick, the author of the best sellers Chaos and Ge­nius, brings us his crowning work: a revelatory chronicle that shows how information has become the modern era’s defining quality—the blood, the fuel, the vital principle of our world.

The story of information begins in a time profoundly unlike our own, when every thought and utterance vanished as soon as it was born. From the invention of scripts and alphabets to the long misunderstood “talk­ing drums” of Africa, James Gleick tells the story of information technologies that changed the very nature of human consciousness. He provides portraits of the key figures contributing to the inexorable develop­ment of our modern understanding of information: Charles Babbage, the idiosyncratic inventor of the first great mechanical computer; Ada Byron, the po­et’s brilliant and doomed daughter, who became the first true programmer; pivotal figures like Samuel Morse and Alan Turing; and Claude Shannon, the cre­ator of information theory itself.

And then the information age comes upon us. Citi­zens of this world become experts willy-nilly: aficiona­dos of bits and bytes. And they sometimes feel they are drowning, swept by a deluge of signs and signals, news and images, blogs and tweets. The Information is the story of how we got here and where we are heading. It will transform readers’ view of its subject.

©2011 James Gleick (P)2011 Random House

What the Critics Say

"Accessible and engrossing." (Library Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (1198 )
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Performance
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  •  
    serine 01-23-16
    serine 01-23-16 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lots of information"

    I love the history of science and no one gives a better history than Gleick. If you loved Chaos, you will love this. I have read several books on information theory and have really enjoyed them. But, Gleick really knows how to convey almost every concept to his reader in the simplest, yet surprisingly complete, way. I have been annoyed with Richard Dawkins for many years now. I used to love him, but once epigenetics came on the scene and he threw fit after fit, not to mention the fit he threw about endosymbiosis, it is clear his time as an effective scientists has passed. However, Gleick's take on the selfish gene and its place in history reminded me about everything I once loved about Dawkins. From Shannon to Gamow, this book did justice to so many of the researchers whose passions gave rise to information theory. It is not as heavy on the science as some people might like, but the history is incredibly rich and interesting. I enjoyed it far more than Isaacson's The Innovators. I listened to the audio version while I jogged. Thinking back to the wonderful innovators of our time made me feel connected to the Earth and all that we have discovered about our universe.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bernardo Santana 10-23-17 Member Since 2017
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    "great book"

    super interesting topic, however the narrator makes it boring sometimes. A great piece of reading

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KathyK 10-08-17
    KathyK 10-08-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Fascinating account of historical events leading to the Information Age"

    Gleick pulls together historical events and stories of scientists, theoreticians, mathematicians, and more, to show the evolution of knowledge and “informa

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William 10-04-17
    William 10-04-17 Member Since 2008
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    "This book is a fascinating journey"

    As a retired computer scientist, I found this book a fascinating journey. There were many things I knew of but the book wove them together with things I didn't know. However this book was not written for computer scientists but for a much broader audience who want to know how we got from where we started to where we are today.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Block 09-18-17
    David Block 09-18-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Wonderful! "

    Wonderful collection of stories and observations, great narration. James Gleick writes beautifully about the history and impact of the sciences and the people who make it happen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pablo Benito Juárez, Mexico 09-10-17
    Pablo Benito Juárez, Mexico 09-10-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Engaging but with some innacuracies"
    Any additional comments?

    Some of the things in the book about how the Chinese language works seem to be inaccurate. I'm no linguist so all I can do is to refer you to my sources at the end.

    - Knowledge about Mandarin does not automatically allow you to read Cantonese even when the symbols are similar.
    - He mentions the transition from pictographic to ideographic to logographic but I was left with the idea that Chinese is still ideographic but it is not. Chinese does not work by capturing ideas or meaning.

    These inaccuracies are not fatal to the book's intent but I think they should be pointed out nevertheless.

    References:

    > Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity, Episode 5. A logosyllabic Script http://a.co/cWt24dN

    > The answer to these questions is no. Chinese characters are a phonetic, not an ideographic, system of writing, as I have attempted to show in the preceding pages. http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/ideographic_myth.html

    > The term "ideogram" is often used to describe symbols of writing systems such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Sumerian cuneiform and Chinese characters. However, these symbols are logograms, representing words or morphemes of a particular language rather than objects or concepts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideogram

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Hall Calgary, Alberta Canada 06-22-17
    Richard Hall Calgary, Alberta Canada 06-22-17 Member Since 2016
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    "insightful and intriguing"

    was a really interesting journey from the very beginnings of communication, and also a deep, very meta philosophical exploration about the very nature of information and meaning in the universe.
    the only reason I gave it 4 stars on performance was that the end stuttered lots (but I had it on 1.5 SPD)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicholas Mirro Dallas, TX 05-04-17
    Nicholas Mirro Dallas, TX 05-04-17 Member Since 2017
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    "This must be a masterpiece by any standard."

    Audiobook is the perfect way through this magnificent work, and Rob Shapiro is the perfect person to deliver it to you! I bought a hard copy to arrive on completion. What a marvelous treat! The moment the paper copy arrived, it became the favorite book in my small library!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 04-02-17
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 04-02-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Nice History of Information Science"

    A nice very high level survey of the history and figures involved in information sciences followed by a shallow dive into some basics of information theory. The history was totally enjoyable. The shallow dive was interesting as far as it went, but it was limited and was problematic in audio due to equations and tables that would be easily understood on a page, but nearly incomprehensible, or useless, in audio (like dozens of spellings of the word mackerel or lists of coin flip results). There is no companion PDF which would have helped, at least with the equations. Thus while I would recommend this book, I would recommend a visual version.

    On the technical side this book discusses entropy and negative-entropy and its association with information science, but does not do a very good job explaining what this entropy thing exactly is. It goes over the idea once, lightly, and moves on. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to deeply grasp much of the rest of the book without a good understanding of entropy in general and how entropy relates to information. This book is not alone in leaving entropy poorly described. Almost every book on entropy or information theory has the same weakness. The best overview of entropy (physics) I have found is the beginning of Penrose's Cycles of Time. Even with that excellent description of how entropy is calculated, it still does not explain exactly why entropy in important in extracting physical work in physics or information content in information theory.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James canter Fort Smith,AR 03-06-17
    James canter Fort Smith,AR 03-06-17
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    "Jim's review"

    Great book and great narration listened to it twice. may listen again in the future for a review update.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Christos
    Greece
    12/25/12
    Overall
    "Informative but temporarily boring as an audiobook"

    James Gleick is a guarantee when it comes to popular science. The book is complete and accurate, well balanced and flowing naturally. However, it inevitably contains a lot of formulas and equations, which are not a narrator's favorite language and a listener's best visualization capability.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Antonio Konitsiotis
    London, UK
    3/12/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Typically amazing book by Gleick"

    An amazingly insightful and interesting book from Gleick. Had to listen sm sections twice though!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • B. Robin
    12/31/14
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    "A History, a Theory, a Flood"

    Outstanding, enthralling book covering language, technology, information theory and all the humor, drama and excitement that go along with them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • jeremy
    London, United Kingdom
    7/9/13
    Overall
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    Story
    "Fascinating, compelling and listenable"

    Popular information theory! I really enjoyed this and was inspired to read further in the area. Not too difficult for a beginner (like me) but you do have to pay attention!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Danul
    NEWPORT, United Kingdom
    4/10/13
    Overall
    "Fascinating Introduction to Information Theory"

    This book is a fascinating story of the history of Information theory and technology. It can get quite technical, but the journey that Gleick takes you on a generally very well paced and the narration by Rob Shapiro is excellent (although he might want to research how to pronounce a couple of UK placenames!) A worthy winner of the Guardian Science writing prize last year

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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