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Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies Paperback – 7 Apr 2016

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (7 April 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141978023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141978024
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

A bold attempt to synthesise a large body of cutting-edge work into a readable, slender volume... his thought-provoking book deserves to be widely read (Financial Times)

Mr Hidalgo succeeds brilliantly in bringing his complex subject to life. His book is full of nuggets, from memorable phrases to interesting metaphors (Economist)

[Hidalgo's] innovative thinking about what drives growth could help us to navigate the turbulence of the ever more interconnected global economy... He has iden­tified a fertile seam (Nature)

The concept of information is necessary to make sense of anything that is not a boring featureless mass, including life, mind, society, and value. Why Information Grows lucidly explains the foundations of this essential concept, while creatively applying it in exciting new ways. It is filled with interesting ideas, and a pleasure to read (Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works)

Why Information Grows shows us how humans infuse information into matter, making it more valuable than gold. Hidalgo's work brilliantly spotlights the true alchemy of the twenty-first century and its impact from economic complexity to national competitiveness (Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Distinguished Professor and Director of Northeastern University's Center for Complex Network Research, and author of Linked)

About the Author

César Hidalgo leads the Macro Connections group at the MIT Media Lab. A trained statistical physicist and an expert on Networks and Complex Systems, he also has extensive experience in the field of economic development and has pioneered research on how big data impacts economic decision-making.


Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The author, a statistical physicist teaching at MIT's Media lab and a pioneer in extracting meaning from huge data bases, introduces a bold, original, and profound universal theory of information - one that applies to everything, from the lifeless to the living, from the living to the conscious, and to all scales from atoms to economies.

As a point of departure the author responds to the question as to why and how Economies grow? He argues that Economies grow because the information contained in them grows not just in human capital, but also recently exponentially in networks that connect everyone and even in the objects that populate the world. Additionally, this ever - expanding pool of information did not start with humans, but dates back to the beginning of time, hence his previously mentioned universal theory of information.

To the legitimate question as to how, in a universe that according to the laws of Thermodynamics moves towards entropy and randomness - order and hence information - is born and grow? The author suggests that order arises from chaos when a system is in non - equilibrium. Such steady states of a non - equilibrium system are indeed numerous. Earth itself, because it is spinning around the sun, is a system that is constantly out of equilibrium, and is hence an enclave in which information is generated even though the universe around it is growing increasingly random.

To make information enduring and help it grow, nature has evolved several solutions. Order can be stored in solids and DNA is an excellent case in point.

Physical systems can compute, and provide different outputs depending on, for instance, how much energy is provided as an impact.

Humans are the highest form of order thus created.
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Format: Hardcover
Something that is absolutely essential to understand this book, subtitled 'The evolution of order from atoms to economies', on the fascinating topic of the nature of information in the world, and its relationship with the economy, is that the author is an academic at M.I.T.’s Media Lab.

When I first got involved in IT in the 1970s, we were in awe of the Media Lab and all the ultra-clever, way-out technology concepts that they rolled out, convincing us that we were seeing the future in the visionary work. But over time, none of their concepts really seemed to become a reality. They might have inspired others, but they continued to be ultra-clever, way-out oddities that rarely managed to cross the divide to the real world.

I felt the same about this book. It started out, like a visit to the Media Lab, as a dazzling mix of information theory and economics and philosophy - but in the end it all appeared to be on the surface. It never really got anywhere. And along the way it was often repetitive to the point that I strongly felt that I was being talked down to.

I suppose it's a big point to make, but the author repeats the importance and presence of information so many times in the first few chapters. He also makes statements that just aren't true. He says, for instance, in one of those tedious personal story examples American authors seem programmed to start chapters with that his daughter's birth was 'facilitated not by objects, but by the information embedded in those objects'. What he really meant was 'by objects and the information embedded in them' because the information alone wouldn’t have achieved the goal.
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Format: Hardcover
There are several things to like about this book but overall it doesn't add up to much, certainly it doesn't matches the author's ambition. Firstly it is not about why information grows but about how. Moreover in many places that book is very naive. Describing a tree as the unpacking of DNA information simply illustrates a complete lack of understanding of biology. Finally the book contains numerous contradictions and inconsistencies for example information is first described as distinct from semantics in chapter 1 and then later in Chapter 11 is treated as semantics. Perhaps the best part of the book is the review of chaos and complexity theory from the 80s I'm how it relates to information growth today.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
clearly ,written by an authorative physicist who, understands the meaning and significance of the laws of thermodynamics and its relevance to negative entropy of non-dissipative structures far from equilibrium. The future perspectives are bewildering in our troubled times........A must for the coffee table.
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Format: Paperback
The first half as a synopsis of information theory is very readable and enjoyable. Unfortunately the second half - the real supposed meat - where it should get into Economics never really gets going.

There are some fairly high level ideas expressed - products as the crystallisation of ideas - but there isn't really the depth to give this book the substance it probably deserves. I would have enjoyed it more if the author wrote a longer book with more details about how his ideas of information theory are applied more deeply.
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