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The Information

“So ambitious, illuminating and sexily theoretical that it will amount to aspirational reading for many of those who have the mettle to tackle it. Don’t make the mistake of reading it quickly. Imagine luxuriating on a Wi-Fi-equipped desert island with Mr. Gleick’s book, a search engine and no distractions. The Information is to the nature, history and significance of data what the beach is to sand.” (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)

In the beginning was the word, according to John. We are the species that named itself Homo sapiens, the one who knows—and then, after reflection, amended that to Homo sapiens sapiens. The greatest gift of Prometheus to humanity was not fire after all: “The Information: A History, a Theory, a FloodNumbers, too, chiefest of sciences, I invented for them, and the combining of letters, creative mother of the Muses’ arts, with which to hold all things in memory.” The alphabet was a founding technology of information. The telephone, the fax machine, the calculator, and, ultimately, the computer are only the latest innovations devised for saving, manipulating, and communicating knowledge. Our culture has absorbed a working vocabulary for these useful inventions. We speak of compressing data, aware that this is quite different from compressing a gas. We know about streaming information, parsing it, sorting it, matching it, and filtering it. Our furniture includes iPods and plasma displays, our skills include texting and Googling, we are endowed, we are expert, so we see information in the foreground. But it has always been there.

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6 Comments

  1. Bill Drake says

    Dear James,

    Congradulation! I have been waiting for this masterpiece on Information Theory and my hero Claude Shannon for a very long time. How long? In 1983, I had the great privilege of discovering Campbell’s Grammatical Man, and I have never been the same since.

    Your work is brilliant. I sincerely hope it ignites a popular appreciation for these ideas on Information and will help place Shannon’x unique genius in the pantheon of the greats.

    For many years I have been thinking about producing a documentary film that covers Shannon’s contributions and his incredible life. If that project is in the works, I would be excited to talk to the producers – if not, I am interested in connecting with you about ways to proceed.

    Sincerely,

    Bill Drake

  2. George says

    Rushing through Hong Kong airport, I was thrilled to see Mr. Gleick’s latest effort in Relay Bookstore. I was so tempted to drop all my luggage and risk missing my flight, in order to purchase a copy. I thought better of it, as I could always get the Kindle version after check-in.

    What a mistake.

    I love my Kindle, but I much prefer savoring Mr. Gleick’s books in old-fashioned bound form. Guess I have to make a trip to Page One or Dymocks later this week…

  3. Tchad says

    Dear James,

    I have heard that The Information is available in certain country specific iBook Stores through Apple. Please add some gentle pressure to Apple to make the English version available in the European iBook Stores – UK, France, etc.

    We would prefer to read the book, or gift the book, in English than get some sort of translation.

    PS – Chaos is now available for pre-order with an expected launch set for 22 March.

  4. Ferenc Laczó says

    glad it is finally out and looking fwd to reading it soon – but wouldn’t want to distract anyone with useless information overload here :)

  5. Josef Lentsch says

    Dear James,

    I very much enjoyed your book, congratulations! Are there any plans to publish it in German?

    • gleick says

      Yes, FinanzBuch Verlag is going to bring it out in Germany. I don’t know the publication date yet.

      Maybe I should do a page for the translated editions.

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