The Information by James GleickChris Ridgeway | 10 Aug 2011 | 16:02
My newest I-Get-Giddy reading project is ”James Gleick’s The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood.” The 2011 book is a hefty 526 pages (yeah, I should have got the Kindle Edition) and so instead of a review, I hope to blog through chapters at a time. This is probably a better approach in any case, seeing my recent history with balancing life and good reading has been pretty, well, unbalanced. But here’s to continuing to try.
“In the long run, history is the story of information becoming aware of itself.”
It’s not like information just appeared in the world of radio and computers, writes Glieck. It’s the fundamental building block of the universe. “If you want to understand life,” quoting Richard Dawkins, “don’t think about vibrant, throbbing gels or oozes, think about information technology.”. Biology and physics and economics are all really IT.
But you’ve got to begin somewhere, and our Prologue starts in 1948, where Bell Labs researcher Claude Shannon writes a paper introducing the Bit—a unit for measuring information “as though there were such a thing, measurable and quantifiable,” writes Glieck. In fact, Shannon doesn’t use the newer word “information,” instead using the term “intelligence” as in “transmission of intelligence.” “Information” doesn’t yet have the digital-influence definition denoted today. Another new word—transistor—is chosen in the same year by a vote of Bell scientists. It’s a hybrid of “varistor” and “transconductance”
And it’ll change the world.
But the first chapter will be about African talking drums. Sweet.