Saturday, July 28, 2012

read: The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (3 stars)

The Information: A History, a Theory, a FloodThe Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was not what I was expecting. From the description given during our book club meeting and the bits of blurb I read, I thought this would be about the flood of information coming our way via the information superhighway. And maybe it would have some thoughts on how to deal with it.

Instead, this tells the history of Information, rather than the information superhighway (although it does include a bit about how we got the latter and what it may mean). And by history, I mean back to the days before writing. It is a very long, and often interesting, tale about the evolution of writing and human thought from the earliest days to the present.

The earlier parts of the book work better than the latter. This may be partially due to being more grounded in technology that is accessible to most people: speaking, writing, telegraph, telephone. Here the sidebars are easy to access and forgive. Later on, the subjects become deeper, more theoretical and harder to follow. I found myself wishing the author would stay more focused and help me understand it better, rather than telling more anecdotes about the scholars and scientists. Even so, I found the book to be thought provoking, although not provocative.

If you ever saw the BBC television show Connections with James Burke, this will seem familiar. If you haven't see that show, but like this book, go and find the show. You will likely find it informative and entertaining.

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