James Gleick – The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

James Gleick

Pantheon, 2011, English, ISBN-13: 978-0375423727, Hardcover: 544 pages
This is an excellent history of information theory and science. The quantification and qualification of information is a process here investigated through key historical moments and figures, contextualized through biographical facts and narratives, starting with the amazing mechanisms of the “Talking drums of Africa”, which delivered information over hundred of miles, before moving on to more recent Western abstractions. The reader next becomes a spectator of the pivotal professional and personal moments of Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace Byron, Alan Turing, Norbert Weiner and Claude Shannon, to name a few. The reconstructions are far away from being anecdotes and the scientific concepts are historicized in their development with crystal clarity and readability. This fascinating trip in the past is full of discoveries, enlightening and visionary quotes, and facts about “saving, manipulating and communicating knowledge.” The minimization of time and space in this process is a crucial change, along with the increasingly viral nature of information dissemination: “the alphabet spread by contagion.” The activities computing symbols, meanings, and their movement around the globe find here a coherent and compelling chronicle. Painstakingly researched and written to be popular (although not for everybody) this book may become be a primary source on this subject, reflecting one of the most ambitious sentences it contains: “in the long run, history is the story of information becoming aware of itself.”