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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 1, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
Gleick, a science journalist and chronicler of physics provides interesting background material and simple enough explanations for anyone who wishes to learn about the areas of information theory that influence our times, technologies and businesses. He also gives enough detail for the interested undergraduate student whose field is not primarily in the sciences. But, the unification of science, phenomena, history and biography is also of considerable interest to those like myself who have extensive training in the "information sciences" but seek a wider context for their previously acquired knowledge.
One slight criticism, I have for this otherwise excellent and comprehensive review of the theory of information and its history, is in the area of its relation to physics and the structure of the world (universe). The relationship and application of information theory to physical phenomena is a theory first espoused by Konrad Zuse, a German computer pioneer and Edward Fredkin the proponent of "digital physics". Given that Gleick's attraction and interest for information theory was probably sparked by his study of the history and explanation of physical phenomena, and his penchant for biography I would have expected more background on these explorers of the nature of physical reality as information.
This excellent history of "information science" is a must read for all who seek to understand the phenomena and technologies of the coming century.
--Ira Laefsky, MSE/MBA
Information Technology Consultant and Researcher
Formerly on the Senior Technical Staff of Arthur D. Little, Inc and Digital Equipment Corporation
Unfortunately the rest of the book falls far short of this strong standard. Glieck attempts to tackle too much, offering forgettable takes on topics including dictionaries, telegraphs, Charles Babbage, Wikipedia, memes, and information surfeit. These topics are not well-anchored to the central topic of information theory, and serve to muddle the work. But most disappointingly, the chapters on biology (Ch. 10) and quantum physics (Ch. 13) leave a ton to be desired. Glieck barely scratches the surface of the application of information theory to biology (particularly neuroscience), and the discussion of quantum information begs many more questions to be answered. What Glieck does introduce about these topics is disjointed and in need of serious editing. For instance, Glieck introduces Christopher Fuchs and quantum information theory, but before the discussion really goes anywhere, he shifts to a cursory discussion of black holes and information before shifting to an equally vacuous discussion of quantum computation and teleportation.
Thus, I can only half-recommend this book. There are parts I strongly recommend (Ch. 9,12), parts that are pretty good (Ch. 6-8), parts that are tangential and forgettable (roughly half), and other parts that are very disappointing and in need of serious expansion (Ch. 10,13).