William Ramsay's Reviews > The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

The Information by James Gleick
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Apr 21, 12

Read in April, 2012

The Information is an interesting book about how the concept of information came into being. Of course, it seems we must always have had information, facts that we know, but that's not quite what Gleick is getting at. When you begin to see that codes can carry messages that hold information, then you begin to get an inkling of a far more complex definition of information. For instance, DNA, a code of chemical identifiers, holds the information about you and I and much of our past. Bits and bytes are just electronic states, off and on, but they are the means by which you are reading this right now. Gleick traces the history of coded messages from the invention of writing to the invention of Twitter and how the idea of information theory grew in the twentieth century to create the overwhelming glut of facts (?) that now inundate us. Much of this story has to do with the underlying concepts of computer science, which has always fascinated me. I found out from the book that Lord Byron's daughter Ada can be considered the first programmer because she conceived of programming long before a computer was possible. The books tells the stories of many geniuses who played a part in creating this world we now live in. The only fault I find with the book is that Gleick is not careful to tie the story together as well as he could. I never quite figured out what the long section on random numbers had to do with it all. It's often a difficult book, but well worth the read if an understanding of how we got to where we are is of interest too you.
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