The Information

  • by James Gleick
  • Narrated by Rob Shapiro
  • 16 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

James Gleick, the author of the best sellers Chaos and Ge­nius, brings us his crowning work: a revelatory chronicle 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 vanished as soon as it was born. From the invention of scripts and alphabets to the long misunderstood “talk­ing drums” of Africa, James 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 po­et’s brilliant and doomed daughter, 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 comes upon us. Citi­zens of this world become experts willy-nilly: aficiona­dos of bits and bytes. And they sometimes feel they 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. It will transform readers’ view of its subject.


What the Critics Say

"Accessible and engrossing." (Library Journal)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Brilliant book, heroic reader, better in print?

The Information is stunning and vastly important - one of the first popular accounts of information theory, and by James Gleick, who famously introduced the world to chaos theory a decade or two ago. This is a detailed tour from the invention of language to the information era, concentrating primarily on what information means, as well as how it is encoded and manipulated - as words, telegraph messages, hidden codes, or mathematics. The hero of the work is Claude Shannon, famous for writing the most important master's thesis ever written, and the consequences and meaning of the information theory he invented. Occasionally lyrical and constantly thought provoking, this book is excellent, and the reader is precise, clear, and makes even dry text interesting.

So why four stars? I have listened to something like 200 audio books, and this is one of the few that, despite great reading and great content, suffers from not being on the printed page. There are equations ("B sub r dagger dagger A inverted r") and tables of numbers in the text, and even the wonderful job the reader does can't make these intelligible, though he does try. It doesn't destroy the work, by any means, and is still very enjoyable and intriguing, but there are some difficult or plain useless passages as a result (ironic, given a book on encoding information, that the encoding method here is so inefficient). Also, this book requires concentration, not playing in the background, so take that into account.

I am going to be recommending this book to everyone, so don't hesitate to buy it on Audible, but, if you really want to get deep into the details and numbers, you are going to need a printed copy as well.
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- Ethan M. "On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through"

Information in Historical Context

James Gleick in “The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood” seeks to place information in historical context. To accomplish that he opens the book by discussing the advent of drumming, signals, telegraph, telephone and the computer. A most interesting section contains an explanation of how Babbage invented the first computer and how it worked. In the subsequent portion he relates how information theorists worked on the coding, decoding, and re-coding of information. The final chapters link such as DNA , and quantum mechanics to information. It is this last portion of the book that was the most thought provoking for me. This book is wonderful as history, stimulating as philosophy, and a fine introduction to theoretical aspects of the topic. The reading of Rob Shapiro is excellent.
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- Lynn

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-01-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio