The Information Paperback – 1 Mar 2012
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‘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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good journey through this fascinating topic. From not enough information to being overloaded with it. Not sure that the quantum computation stuff adds much to this, though. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Tom Kater
Needs to be read more than once it is so crammed full of interesting information.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
A good in depth window into the history, background and personalities involved in the wide field of information theory. Not too technical. Well referenced. Read morePublished 3 months ago by R.J.Peto
I read this coming off the high of reading "Quantum". It is not as compelling in its style, but it is very fascinating and I will probably read to again. Read morePublished 6 months ago by A. J. Kirke
This must have been a labour of love for the author. For the reader it represents a challenge in its completeness. Read morePublished 8 months ago by R. EDWARDS
This is in my top ten non fiction books. A superb piece of work that explains the 'information' journey from early man through to today. Thorough and definitive.Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is a great book. Essential for pretty much anyone looking for a guide to the philosophy and history of information.Published 18 months ago by Kentigern
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