James Gleick has such a perspective, and signals it in the first word of the title of his new book, “The Information,” using the definite article we. From the bestselling author of the acclaimed Chaos and Genius comes a thoughtful and provocative exploration of the big ideas of the modern era: Information. This item:The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick “Gleick does what only the best science writers can do: take a subject of which most of.


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His treatment of most subsequent topics is often not cogent.

For example, in his treatment of thermodynamic information, he equivocates on what Maxwell's Demon is or isn't, and whether it exists or doesn't. Gleick ends up noting that the demon could not operate, but the information james gleick he keeps referring to it as if it really does operate, a presumably rhetorical move that is pointless and incoherent.

: The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood : James Gleick: Books

Later on, Gleick gives a treatment of both genes and memes that is strangely uninspired. The fact that the book's wide scope requires the treatment of any particular topic to be fairly shallow does not combine well with the fact that almost everyone the information james gleick days has a passing familiarity with both genes and memes: Gleick says no more than "the educated layperson" already knows.

In a book on The Information, it seems genes and memes must be discussed as a matter of course -- but these sections don't the information james gleick value to the book.


Moreover, the section on genes was even more the information james gleick flawed. This is analogous to saying that the first person who figured out that a charred stick could be used to make marks on slate was the person who figured out writing. Or, it is analogous to saying that the information content of enigma-encrypted Wehrmacht transmissions was retrieved not by the codebreakers at Bletchly Park but by the radio operators who determined what radio frequency the messages were broadcast on.


This is a rather profound mistake, considering the subject of The Information. And this major mistake cropped up again and again, in different contexts. Despite his attentiveness to the father of information theory, Shannon, Gleick never got around to explicitly saying what makes something the information james gleick, nor did Gleick implicitly follow any solid definition of information.

This becomes problematic toward the end, where Gleick wants to unify everything under quantum information -- "it from bit" -- with the entire universe as a collection of physical-informational states.

The Information

That is an interesting concept, but it actually the information james gleick little to do with "information" as treated in the rest of the book: In all these contexts, something is informational when one physical object stands in for something else -- say, AAG for lysine, or dot-dot-dot for s.

Gleick seems aware of this special relationship that defines information per Shannonbut never pursues it and eventually abandons it.

  • The Information by James Gleick |
  • The Information: a History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick – review
  • The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
  • A History, a Theory, a Flood

The sense of "information" he ends with is simply the notion that at certain levels, such as the the information james gleick of quarks, the objects of study are indistinguishable from the formalisms by which we know them. Gleick uses the Jimmy Wales created article for the Cape Town butchery restaurant Mzoli's as a case study of this struggle.

The information james gleick flood of information humanity is now exposed to presents new challenges Gleick says, as we retain more of our information now than at any previous point in human history, it takes much more effort to delete or remove unwanted information than to accumulate it.

This is the ultimate entropy cost of generating additional information and the answer to slay Maxwell's Demon. Reception[ edit ] In addition to winning major awards for science writing and history, The Information received mostly positive reviews.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood - Wikipedia

Or the invention of language some time in the prehistory of our species? At each stage, humans wanted to communicate something. At each stage there has been information, and information has propelled the evolution of our society. James Gleick, the doyen of science writing and the author of the hugely successful Chaos as well as biographies of Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton, reviews the history of humanity through the lens of our attempts to make communication faster, more efficient and more available.

You only need to read the information james gleick few the information james gleick of this book — which opens with tales of African drumming — to realise what a sweeping and monumental task Gleick has set himself.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

What the information james gleick know as "information" — such a familiar concept to us now — took a long, long time to develop. Gleick's story spans savannahs, hunter-gatherers, ancient civilisations, alphabets, the beginnings of science before anyone knew how to define or measure anything at allmathematical codes, data, electronics and quantum physics.

It takes some confidence and a good deal of nerve to sweep across such a vast arena without losing your reader. The book is not written as a straightforward history, which might have been a temptation for someone charting the information james gleick progress of an element of human society.