Book Review, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood. By James Gleick

What is information?

This is probably the main question driving the reader throughout the book, which is presented as a comprehensive review of the concept of information, its history, meaning and role in modern society. In 437 pages, James Gleick takes the reader through the discovery of the “historicity” of the concept of information, exposed through the main theorists implied in the process.

The book is full of interesting references to the history of information theory, but unfortunately lacks the theoretical rigour of an academic account of the topic. The reader can find really inspiring stories and draw out powerful insights about what information means, but also finds awkward reflections about its essence and about how the concept should be understood. On the positive side, we can mention the relevance of redundancy in language, a point that is wonderfully explained in the description of the drums’ communication language, as well as in the process of breaking cryptographic codes. On the negative side, we should mention the Epilogue and its loose reflection around the meaning of meaning, that ultimately confuses information with knowledge, and thus presents networks and “the internet” as a social agent that “is changing the world”.

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