I’ve just finished The Information by James Gleick, one of the finest science writers in the business. I loved the book and would highly recommend it. To learn more about James Gleick, check out his website here. From Gleicks bio page: His first book, Chaos, was a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist and a national bestseller. Other books include the best-selling biographies, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton, both shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. For those readers who want to learn more about The Information, Wired “senior maverick” Kevin Kelly, author of the recently released What Technology Wants, interviews Gleick here. An excerpt:
Kelly: According to your book, information underpins everything.
Gleick: Modern physics has begun to think of the bitâ€”this binary choiceâ€”as the ultimate fundamental particle. John Wheeler summarized the idea as â€œit-from-bit.â€ By that he meant that the basis of the physical universeâ€”the â€œitâ€ of an atom or subatomic particleâ€”is not matter, nor energy, but a bit of information.
Kelly:: That sounds almost spiritualâ€”that the material world is really immaterial.
Gleick: I know it sounds magical, but it needs to be understood properly. Information has a material basis. It has to be carried by something.
Kelly: The extreme view would be that all these bits that make up atoms are running on a very big computer called the universe, an idea first espoused by Babbage.
Gleick: That makes sense as long as this metaphor does not diminish our sense of what the universe is but expands our sense of what a computer is.
Kelly: But as you note, some scientists say that this is not a metaphor: The universe we know is only information.
Gleick: Iâ€™m not a physicist, but that concept resonates with something that we all recognize: Information is the thing that we care most about. The more we understand the role that information plays in our world, the more skillful citizens we will be.
For even more about the book, check out Tom Ashbrook’s interview with James Gleick for his podcast: On Point.