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The Information Paperback – 1 Mar 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (1 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007225741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007225743
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘An audacious book which offers remarkable insight. Gleick takes us, with verve and fizz, on a journey from African drums to computers, liberally sprinkling delightful factoids along the way. This is a book we need to give us a fresh perspective on how we communicate and how that shapes our world.’ The Royal Society Winton Prize Judges

‘Mind-stretching but enlightening … the power and breadth of the ideas involved cannot but make you marvel.’ Daily Mail

‘Magisterial…It is not merely a history of information, but also a theory and a prospectus. To describe it as ambitious is to engage in almost comical understatement.’ Matthew Syed, The Times

‘A deeply impressive and rather beautiful book.’ Philip Ball, Observer

‘The fascinating story of how humans have transmitted knowledge…broad and occasionally brilliant.’ Sunday Times

‘This is a work of rare penetration, a true history of ideas whose witty and determined treatment of its material brings clarity to a complex subject.’ Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph

About the Author

James Gleick was born in New York in 1954. He worked for ten years as an editor and reporter for The New York Times. He is the bestselling author of Chaos, Genius, Faster, What Just Happened and a biography of Isaac Newton.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I'm not sure the reviews so far are terribly helpful if you want a quick feel for whether to read this book or not. So here goes.

It's basically a bravura sweep through the history of information, told with great panache and lots of anecdote, mixing straight narrative with reflection on wider significance, and attempting to explain quite difficult concepts for the non-specialised reader. Whatever else it may or may not be, I found it a lively and enjoyable read.

The book falls broadly into three sections. The first runs through key early stages in the creation, storage and use of information - the alphabet, printing, the telegraph, telephone, etc. I didn't find much new here but the author did a great job marshalling facts, figures, characters and anecdotes into a lively tale.

The heart of the book grapples with information as a scientific concept, and you will find yourself in the realm of computers, information theory, DNA and quantum mechanics (to name but a few). This isn't natural territory for me, but I was swept along by Gleick's style and even felt I understood some of the underlying mathematical concepts he sought to explain.

The final section is essentially a thought piece on the modern information age, considering the ubiquity of information from the internet and the perils of information overload. Rather like the first section, I didn't feel there was a great deal new here but Gleick's ability to call up literary references, make parallels across the centuries and ask the pertinent questions made it an engaging read. I'm certainly pleased to have made the acquaintance of Vincent of Beauvais, a thirteenth century monk who seems to have arrived 750 years early for the Information Age.

So, a dazzling read certainly, but one also with a great deal of substance. Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Gleick's Chaos was one of the books from my teen years and I read Genius his biography of Richard Feynman. So I had high expectations for The Information. In chaos Gleick was at his best when he was telling the history of chaos or the biographical sketches of the participants (Chaos focused on Mitchel Feigenbaum). Again here these are the strongest parts of the book when he is talking about Babbage or Shannon. The stories of Shannon and his seminal paper on information theory is brilliantly explained along with the impact of the advances in communication from telegraphy to telephones and the internet. His explanations of probability and complexity are much clearer than similar arguments made by Murray Gell-Mann in the Quark and the Jaguar. He also does a great job of number theory and the problems of rational, irrational and computable numbers and their information content. It was very nice to see Henry Quastler mentioned as he has unfortunately been ignored because of his untimely death.

The problem comes when towards the end in the chapters when he looks at information in biology, entropy and complexity. Biology as Sydney Brenner and Craig Venter have both said is an information science, but Gleick looks too much at the Ricahrd Dawkin's view of neo-Darwinism and information, which is a gloss on the work of John Maynard-Smith. Another founder of the idea of information in biological sequences, especially from a phylogenetic perspective is Linus Pauling. The real truth in biology is deeper than this. The gene code is not a code for an organism the same way as a blueprint does not build a building without the builders to build it and the technical know-how of the construction.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been a fan of James Gleick's work ever since his book on Chaos came out. Thus I was looking forward to reading his book on Information. Unfortunately, for the first time I was disappointed. It's difficult to put a finger on a specific reason why I should have only got part way through the book before abandoning it. I'm used to reading larger books than this, so it wasn't the size. The writing seemed more turgid that past work, and the portraits of the key figures more fuzzy. And, of course, it wasn't helped by the tiny print size used by the publishers.

Unlike some of the other reviewers, I don't have any specific disagreements with Gleick's ideas on information, at least as far as I got through the book. It was just that the writing was too pedestrian to hold my attention for long enough to complete it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Enjoyed reading the book but felt it got a bit bogged down in places and didn't progress as quickly as it should. Also petered out somewhat towards the end so didn't feel it was as interesting or detailed a look at information and where next as initially it seemed to promise - early chapters proved more interesting and thought provoking than later ones when I thought it would and should have been the other way around. Still worth a read though all the same...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came to this volume with only a vague idea about information and information theory but having been very impressed by Gleick's book on Chaos (Chaos: Making a New Science). This is an engaging work that explores our understanding of information and how it has changed over time. This is primarily done through looking at a number of key thinkers/contributors from the likes of Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)and Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852) to Alan Turing (1912-1954) and Claude Shannon (1916-2001).

This is an interesting overview that brings together both the history and theory of information and shows how we came to be living in the "Information Age". Well worth a read.
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