James Gleick, the author of the best sellers Chaos and Genius, now brings us a work just as astonishing and masterly: a revelatory chronicle and meditation that shows how information has become the modern era’s defining quality—the blood, the fuel, the vital principle of our world.
The story of information begins in a time profoundly unlike our own, when every thought and utterance vanishes as soon as it is born. From the invention of scripts and alphabets to the long-misunderstood talking drums of Africa, Gleick tells the story of information technologies that changed the very nature of human consciousness. He provides portraits of the key figures contributing to the inexorable development of our modern understanding of information: Charles Babbage, the idiosyncratic inventor of the first great mechanical computer; Ada Byron, the brilliant and doomed daughter of the poet, who became the first true programmer; pivotal figures like Samuel Morse and Alan Turing; and Claude Shannon, the creator of information theory itself.
And then the information age arrives. Citizens of this world become experts willy-nilly: aficionados of bits and bytes. And we sometimes feel we are drowning, swept by a deluge of signs and signals, news and images, blogs and tweets. The Information is the story of how we got here and where we are heading.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Information|
|Release Date: 03-01-2011|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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|Parent title||The Information|
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Into the Meme Pool
(You Parasitize My Brain)
When I muse about memes, I often ﬁnd myself picturing an ephemeral ﬂickering pattern of sparks leaping from brain to brain, screaming “Me, me!”
—Douglas Hofstadter (1983)
“Now through the very universality of its structures, starting with the code, the biosphere looks like the product of a unique event,” Jacques Monod wrote in 1970. “The universe was not pregnant with life, nor the biosphere with man. Our number came up in the Monte Carlo game. Is it any wonder if, like a person who has just made a million at the casino, we feel a little strange and a little unreal?”
Monod, the Parisian biologist who shared the Nobel Prize for working out the role of messenger RNA in the transfer of genetic information, was not alone in thinking of the biosphere as more than a notional place: an entity, composed of all the earth’s life-forms, simple and complex, teeming with information, replicating and evolving, coding from one level of abstraction to the next. This view of life was more abstract—more mathematical—than anything Darwin had imagined, but he would have recognized its basic principles. Natural selection directs the whole show. Now biologists, having absorbed the methods and vocabulary of communications science, went further to make their own contributions to the understanding of information itself. Monod proposed an analogy: Just as the biosphere stands above the world of nonliving matter, so an “ab