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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

James Gleick


A popular history of information, and of information theory and computing in particular.

Like Gleick's other books, this book walks the fine line between too much science and too little depth. It avoids the maths entirely without ever abandoning the core insights that the maths provides. That's something many scientists long to achieve, but seldom do: focusing on the concepts and treating the maths as a machine that's only valuable once the concepts have been assimilated. Richard Feynman would have approved.

This book is strongest on Shannon and Babbage, two of the geniuses (along with Turing, von Neumann, and a few others) of the information age as it emerged over the course of a century from mathematics and engineering. The excursion into physicists' treatment of information is less convincing (at least from my computer scientist's perspective), not least because of the inevitable confusions thrown up by quantum information.

4/5. Finished 01 April 2023.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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