Reading: The Information: A History, A Theory by James Gleick

Reviewed on Manzon

Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2011: In a sense, The Information is a book about everything, from words themselves to talking drums, writing and lexicography, early attempts at an analytical engine, the telegraph and telephone, ENIAC, and the ubiquitous computers that followed. But that’s just the “History.” The “Theory” focuses on such 20th-century notables as Claude Shannon, Norbert Wiener, Alan Turing, and others who worked on coding, decoding, and re-coding both the meaning and the myriad messages transmitted via the media of their times. In the “Flood,” Gleick explains genetics as biology’s mechanism for informational exchange–Is a chicken just an egg’s way of making another egg?–and discusses self-replicating memes (ideas as different as earworms and racism) as information’s own evolving meta-life forms. Along the way, readers learn about music and quantum mechanics, why forgetting takes work, the meaning of an “interesting number,” and why “[t]he bit is the ultimate unsplittable particle.” What results is a visceral sense of information’s contemporary precedence as a way of understanding the world, a physical/symbolic palimpsest of self-propelled exchange, the universe itself as the ultimate analytical engine. If Borges’s “Library of Babel” is literature’s iconic cautionary tale about the extreme of informational overload, Gleick sees the opposite, the world as an endlessly unfolding opportunity in which “creatures of the information” may just recognize themselves. –Jason Kirk

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About Howard Oliver
The founder and CEO of What If What Next, Howard Oliver (holiver@whatifwhatnext.com) for more than 20 years has been an entrepreneur, writer, thought leader, PR Guru, business development strategist, technology evangelist, manager and consultant for numerous service, industrial and high technology companies. Howard provides leadership in the application of Agile and Lean project management methodologies for technology enabled social media marketing and PR campaigns that deliver revenue, customer and alliance engagement, and media buzz. Clients in technology and other industries recognize him as a driven, highly creative and disciplined thinker. He also created the WebVoyaging® brand, a market engagement methodology that optimizes the deployment of cloud based, best-in-class marketing automation solutions. The WebVoyaging® process is inspired by the great visionaries who conceived of and built history’s great sailing vessels, which helped establish trade routes and created huge wealth. An accomplished business educator, Howard has recently created the WebVoyaging® Master Class, a training program for organizations interested in implementing Lean marketing automation solutions. Howard holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University. Howard is an avid sailor and collector of books.

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