The Information by James Gleick

The Information

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood is book about information in the abstract- information on information. Gleick’s first book “Chaos: Making Of A New Science” helped me understand a system science that is now a core of my understanding of how the universe works. (All systems big and small) This book tackles a slightly smaller topic: the history of Information; the tools and mathematics that have brought us to where we are today.

The first third of the book was very interesting and quite enjoyable. The second third dealt with more math, which was fine and a lot of metaphysical properties of information, which was harder to work through. The final third deals with books, libraries, the internet and Wikipedia, which returns this reader back to more familiar surroundings.

The best books are neither too hard nor too easy. This book skated that fine line. It wasn’t necessarily an enjoyable read but it was rewarding.

544 pages


The Nyquists immigrated to the United States when Harry was a teenager; he made his way from North Dakota to Bell Labs by way of Yale, where he got a doctorate in physics. He always seemed to have his eye on the big picture, which did not mean telephony per se. As early as 1918, he began working on a method for transmitting pictures by wire: telephotography.
– location 3689

Mathematics is not decidable. Incompleteness follows from uncomputability.
– location 3926

Jean-Pierre Dupuy remarks: “It was, at bottom, a perfectly ordinary situation, in which scientists blamed nonscientists for taking them at their word. Having planted the idea in the public mind that thinking machines were just around the corner, the cyberneticians hastened to dissociate themselves from anyone gullible enough to believe such a thing.”
– location 4942

According to this measure, a million zeroes and a million coin tosses lie at opposite ends of the spectrum. The empty string is as simple as can be; the random string is maximally complex. The zeroes convey no information; coin tosses produce the most information possible. Yet these extremes have something in common. They are dull. They have no value. If either one were a message from another galaxy, we would attribute no intelligence to the sender. If they were music, they would be equally worthless. Everything we care about lies somewhere in the middle, where pattern and randomness interlace.
– location 6511

On Wikipedia, there is a giant conspiracy attempting to have articles agree with reality.
– location 7145

That Bitch-goddess, Quantification; the data processing machines
– location 7404

Augusta Ada Byron King

Augusta Ada Byron King

Augusta Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace as painted in 1836 by Margaret Carpenter

I fell in love with Ada Bryon.
She was everything I want in a woman:
smart, vivacious, beautiful, and rich.


About craigmaas

I do a little web design work and support a couple web sites and blogs. My primary focus is lighting and energy consulting where I use a number of computer tools to help my customer find ways of saving money and improving their work environment. See my web site for more information:
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One Response to The Information by James Gleick

  1. Craig Maas says:

    James Gleick was on the NewsHour (PBS) talking about his new book tonight. You can read the transcript or watch the segment by following the link.

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