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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
 
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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood [Kindle Edition]

James Gleick
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Produktbeschreibungen

Pressestimmen

“With his ability to synthesize mounds of details and to tell rich stories, Gleick ably leads us on a journey from one form of communicating information to another.” –Publishers Weekly, Top 100 Books of 2011

“So ambitious, illuminating and sexily theoretical that it will amount to aspirational reading for many of those who have the mettle to tackle it…The Information is to the nature, history and significance of data what the beach is to sand.” –New York Times

“[A] tour de force…This is intellectual history of tremendous verve, insight, and significance. Unfailingly spirited, often poetic, Gleick recharges our astonishment over the complexity and resonance of the digital sphere and ponders our hunger for connectedness…Destined to be a science classic, best-seller Gleick’s dynamic history of information will be one of the biggest nonfiction books of the year.” –Booklist, starred review

“With his brilliant ability to synthesize mounds of details and to tell rich stories, Gleick leads us on a journey from one form of communication information to another…Gleick’s exceptional history of culture concludes that information is indeed the blood, the fuel, and the vital principle on which our world runs.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Rich and fascinating.” –Washington Post

"No author is better equipped for such a wide- ranging tour than Mr. Gleick. Some writers excel at crafting a historical narrative, others at elucidating esoteric theories, still others at humanizing scientists. Mr. Gleick is a master of all these skills." –Wall Street Journal
 
“Gleick presses rousing tales from the history of human communication into the service of one Very Big Idea…he does what only the best science writers can: take a subject of which most of us are only peripherally aware and put it at the center of the universe.” –Time

“A wide-ranging, deeply researched and delightfully engaging history…” –Los Angeles Times

“The gifted science writer James Gleick explains how we’ve progressed from seeing information as the expression of human thought and emotion to looking at it as a commodity that can be processed, like wheat or plutonium. It’s a long, complicated, and important story, and in Gleick’s hands it’s also a mesmerizing one…As a celebration of human ingenuity, The Information is a deeply hopeful book.” –Nicholas Carr, Daily Beast

“A grand narrative if ever there was one…Gleick provides lucid expositions for readers who are up to following the science and suggestive analogies for those who are just reading for the plot. And there are anecdotes that every reader can enjoy…A prodigious intellectual survey.” –New York Times Book Review  
 
“A highly ambitious and generally brilliant effort to tie together centuries of disparate scientific efforts to understand information as a meaningful concept…By the close of the book you cannot think of information as you might have before. It has become, quite palpably, something different than almost anything we encounter: resistant to decay and capable of perfect self-reproduction. It outlasts the organic beings who create it, and, by replication, the inorganic mediums used to store it. The Information—not unlike other science books that tackle big human quests for understanding—at times bears more than a passing resemblance to a spiritual text.” –Slate

“When collected together in this coherent historical narrative, [his observations] do feel ‘revelatory,’ as his publisher claims…Gleick is wrestling with truly profound material, and so will the reader. This is not a book you will race through on a single plane trip. It is a slow, satisfying meal.” –Columbia Journalism Review

"Accessible and engrossing."
—Library Journal

“The author’s skills as an interpreter of science shine…for completist cybergeeks and infojunkies, the book delivers a solid summary of a dense, complex subject.”
—Kirkus

“Extraordinary in its sweep…Gleick’s story is beautifully told, extensively sourced, and continually surprising.” –Brainiac, Boston Globe online

“Entertaining, funny and clever.” –New Scientist

“A brilliant, panoramic view of how we save and communicate knowledge...and provides thrilling portraits of the geniuses behind the inventions. Provocative and illuminating.” –People

“A commanding chronicle of the information revolution…tantalizing.” –philly.com
 
“An ambitious, sprawling work.” –Kirkus 
 
“Absorbing…The Information is lyrical, patient, impeccably researched, and full of interesting digressions.” –The Boston Globe  

“Tremendously enjoyable. Gleick has an eye and ear for the catchy detail and observation…offers a broad and fascinating foundation, impressive in its reach. A very good read, certainly recommended.” –The Complete Review

“A powerful and rigorous and at times very moving history of information…You can dip into The Information at just about any point and emerge with a magnificent detail.” –Time, Top 10 of Everything 2011

“Heady…This intellectual history is intoxicating—thanks to Gleick’s clear mind, magpie-styled research and explanatory verve.” –Cleveland.com 
 
“To write a history of information…it’s beyond ambitious—it’s audacious. But James Gleick pulls it off…a gracefully written book.” –USA Today

“A book about everything…Gleick sees the world as an endlessly unfolding opportunity in which ‘creatures of the information’ might just recognize themselves.” –Shelfari

“An interesting and detailed history of how we’ve moved from an alphabet to words, writing, dictionaries, etc.” –Alpha 
 
“Imaginatively conceived and staggeringly researched…a transformative work.” –The Phoenix.com 

“[Gleick] remains a gifted writer with a passion for a subject that would easily drown many of us.” –About.com

“Expertly draws out neglected names and stories from history…Gleick’s skill as an expicator of counterintuitive concepts makes the chapters on logic, the stuff even most philosophy majors slept through in class, brim with tension.” –Oregonlive.com 
 
“This is the page-turner you never knew you desperately wanted to read.” –The Stranger Slog
 
“This is an amazing book. If you have any designs on being a professor of information, you should read this book slowly and thoughtfully.” –ALA TechSource

“The most ambitious, compelling, insert-word-of-intellectual-awe-here book to read this year.” –The Atlantic

“Wide-ranging and fascinating.” –New York Journal of Books 

“The most comprehensive book written, to date, about information. An amazing erudite and yet highly readable account…amongst the most profound books written about technology.” –Tech Crunch, TCTV 

“Very fascinating…It will make readers see the world more intelligently than before. Essential.” –Choice, Current Reviews for Academic Libraries 

“In his fascinating new history of the rise and the breadth of today’s communication age, Gleick sheds light on the many ways we impart and receive information.” –New York Times Styles 

“Gleick is one of the great science writers of our age…The Information is an entertaining and instructive romp through the history of information technologies…for anyone interested in learning more about the important and ever-more-prominent role that information plays in our society, the book is not only a pleasure to read, it is well worth reading.” –American Scientist

“Grand, lucid and awe-inspiring…information is about a lot more than what human beings have to say to each other. It’s the very stuff of reality, and never have its mysteries been offered up with more elegance or aplomb.” –Salon.com best of 2011 

Magnificent…this elegant, insightful study reminds us that we have always been adrift in an incomprehensible universe.” –LA Times best books of 2011

The Information is lyrical, patient, impeccably researched, and jammed with interesting—um, well—information.” –Boston Globe Best of 2011

“A sprawling yet fascinating book by an acclaimed American science writer, The Information ranges from biology to particle physics and explores the links between information, communications, data and meaning from earliest times to the present day.” –The Economist


Praise for James Gleick’s
Chaos

“An awe-inspiring book. Reading it gave me the sensation that someone had just found the light switch.”
—Douglas Adams
 
“Enthralling. Full of beautifully strange and strangely beautiful ideas.”
—Douglas Hofstadter
 
Genius
 
“The clearest statemen...

Pressestimmen

'Mind-stretching but enlightening ! the power and breadth of the ideas involved cannot but make you marvel' Daily Mail 'Magisterial!It is not merely a history of information, but also a theory and a prospectus. To describe it as ambitious is to engage in almost comical understatement' Matthew Syed, The Times 'Deeply impressive and rather beautiful book.' Philip Ball, Observer 'From African drums to the digital revolution, this is the fascinating story of how humans have transmitted knowledge!this book is broad and occasionally brilliant.' Sunday Times 'This is a work of rare penetration, a true history of ideas whose witty and determined treatment of its material brings clarity to a complex subject' Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph 'Gleick's previous books include works on Newton and chaos theory. The Information is Newton times chaos' Andy Martin, Independent

Kurzbeschreibung

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.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

James Gleick is our leading chronicler of science and modern technology. His first book, Chaos, a National Book Award finalist, has been translated into twenty-five languages. His best-selling biographies, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton, were short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize.

Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

DRUMS THAT TALK
(When a Code Is Not a Code)
 

Across the Dark Continent sound the never-silent drums:
the base of all the music, the focus of every dance;
the talking drums, the wireless of the unmapped jungle.
—Irma Wassall (1943)
 
No one spoke simply on the drums. Drummers would not say, “Come back home,” but rather,
 
Make your feet come back the way they went,
make your legs come back the way they went,
plant your feet and your legs below,
in the village which belongs to us.
 
They could not just say “corpse” but would elaborate: “which lies on its back on clods of earth.” Instead of “don’t be afraid,” they would say, “Bring your heart back down out of your mouth, your heart out of your mouth, get it back down from there.” The drums generated fountains of oratory. This seemed inefficient. Was it grandiloquence or bombast? Or something else?
 
For a long time Europeans in sub-Saharan Africa had no idea. In fact they had no idea that the drums conveyed information at all. In their own cultures, in special cases a drum could be an instrument of signaling, along with the bugle and the bell, used to transmit a small set of messages: attack; retreat; come to church. But they could not conceive of talking drums. In 1730 Francis Moore sailed eastward up the Gambia River, finding it navigable for six hundred miles, all the way admiring the beauty of the country and such curious wonders as “oysters that grew upon trees” (mangroves). He was not much of a naturalist. He was reconnoitering as an agent for English slavers in kingdoms inhabited, as he saw it, by different races of people of black or tawny colors, “as Mundingoes, Jolloiffs, Pholeys, Floops, and Portuguese.” When he came upon men and women carrying drums, carved wood as much as a yard long, tapered from top to bottom, he noted that women danced briskly to their music, and sometimes that the drums were “beat on the approach of an enemy,” and finally, “on some very extraordinary occasions,” that the drums summoned help from neighboring towns. But that was all he noticed.
 
A century later, Captain William Allen, on an expedition to the Niger River,(1) made a further discovery, by virtue of paying attention to his Cameroon pilot, whom he called Glasgow. They were in the cabin of the iron paddle ship when, as Allen recalled:
 
Suddenly he became totally abstracted, and remained for a while in the attitude of listening. On being taxed with inattention, he said, “You no hear my son speak?” As we had heard no voice, he was asked how he knew it. He said, “Drum speak me, tell me come up deck.” This seemed to be very singular.
 
The captain’s skepticism gave way to amazement, as Glasgow convinced him that every village had this “facility of musical correspondence.” Hard though it was to believe, the captain finally accepted that detailed messages of many sentences could be conveyed across miles. “We are often surprised,” he wrote, “to find the sound of the trumpet so well understood in our military evolutions; but how far short that falls of the result arrived at by those untutored savages.” That result was a technology much sought in Europe: long-distance communication faster than any traveler on foot or horseback. Through the still night air over a river, the thump of the drum could carry six or seven miles. Relayed from village to village, messages could rumble a hundred miles or more in a matter of an hour.
 
A birth announcement in Bolenge, a village of the Belgian Congo, went like this:
 
Batoko fala fala, tokema bolo bolo, boseka woliana imaki tonkilingonda, ale nda bobila wa fole fole, asokoka l’isika koke koke.
 
The mats are rolled up, we feel strong, a woman came from the forest, she is in the open village, that is enough for this time.
 
A missionary, Roger T. Clarke, transcribed this call to a fisherman’s funeral:
 
La nkesa laa mpombolo, tofolange benteke biesala, tolanga bonteke bolokolo bole nda elinga l’enjale baenga, basaki l’okala bopele pele. Bojende bosalaki lifeta Bolenge wa kala kala, tekendake tonkilingonda, tekendake beningo la nkaka elinga l’enjale. Tolanga bonteke bolokolo bole nda elinga l’enjale, la nkesa la mpombolo.
 
In the morning at dawn, we do not want gatherings for work, we want a meeting of play on the river. Men who live in Bolenge, do not go to the forest, do not go fishing. We want a meeting of play on the river, in the morning at dawn.
 
Clarke noted several facts. While only some people learned to communicate by drum, almost anyone could understand the messages in the drumbeats. Some people drummed rapidly and some slowly. Set phrases would recur again and again, virtually unchanged, yet different drummers would send the same message with different wording. Clarke decided that the drum language was at once formulaic and fluid. “The signals represent the tones of the syllables of conventional phrases of a traditional and highly poetic character,” he concluded, and this was correct, but he could not take the last step toward understanding why.
 
These Europeans spoke of “the native mind” and described Africans as “primitive” and “animistic” and nonetheless came to see that they had achieved an ancient dream of every human culture. Here was a messaging system that outpaced the best couriers, the fastest horses on good roads with way stations and relays. Earth-bound, foot-based messaging systems always disappointed. Their armies outran them. Julius Caesar, for example, was “very often arriving before the messengers sent to announce his coming,” as Suetonius reported in the first century. The ancients were not without resources, however. The Greeks used fire beacons at the time of the Trojan War, in the twelfth century BCE, by all accounts—that is, those of Homer, Virgil, and Aeschylus. A bonfire on a mountaintop could be seen from watchtowers twenty miles distant, or in special cases even farther. In the Aeschylus version, Clytemnestra gets the news of the fall of Troy that very night, four hundred miles away in Mycenae. “Yet who so swift could speed the message here?” the skeptical Chorus asks.
 
She credits Hephaestus, god of fire: “Sent forth his sign; and on, and ever on, beacon to beacon sped the courier-flame.” This is no small accomplishment, and the listener needs convincing, so Aeschylus has Clytemnestra continue for several minutes with every detail of the route: the blazing signal rose from Mount Ida, carried across the northern Aegean Sea to the island of Lemnos; from there to Mount Athos in Macedonia; then southward across plains and lakes to Macistus; Messapius, where the watcher “saw the far flame gleam on Euripus’ tide, and from the highpiled heap of withered furze lit the new sign and bade the message on”; Cithaeron; Aegiplanetus; and her own town’s mountain watch, Arachne. “So sped from stage to stage, fulfilled in turn, flame after flame,” she boasts, “along the course ordained.” A German historian, Richard Hennig, traced and measured the route in 1908 and confirmed the feasibility of this chain of bonfires. The meaning of the message had, of course, to be pre arranged, effectively condensed into a single bit. A binary choice, something or nothing:  the fire signal meant something, which, just this once, meant “Troy has fallen.” To transmit this one...
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