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Publisher's Summary

James Gleick's The Information is a sweeping history of information, going back to the invention of writing and the African tradition of talking drums. He tells Steve Paulson that the invention of various information technologies has changed the very nature of consciousness. Gleick describes some of the key breakthroughs in information technology, including the invention of the telegraph and the more recent understanding of information as mathematical. He also explains why information is not the same as knowledge.

Next, Borges' The Library of Babel has inspired generations of writers. And now, many scientists regard his library of never-ending books as a metaphor for the new scientific view of reality, including theories about parallel universes. Here, we read several excerpts from the story.

Then, Nicholas Carr believes the Internet is rewiring the human brain with its instant access to all sorts of information. Are we losing our ability to focus on one thing for any length of time? He makes the provocative argument that our reliance on the Internet is leading to shallow thinking.

After that, information overload seems to be the quintessential 21st century problem. Actually, people have worried about this for centuries, going back to the ancient Romans. Ann Blair provides a short history of information-gathering, from note-taking to the invention of encyclopedias, and how many scholars have tried to battle information overload.

And finally, what are the basic buildings blocks of the universe? Some physicists now say they're not subatomic particles or even the laws of physics, but information itself. Physicist Paul Davies explains, and says it's time to question old theories about the fundamental structure of the universe. He says we need to examine the far-reaching implications of quantum physics. [Broadcast Date: September 7, 2011]

Listen to:

  • The Information by James Gleick
  • The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
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