James Gleick

Every time a new technology comes along, we feel we're about to break through to a place where we will not be able to recover. The advent of broadcast radio confused people. It delighted people, of course, but it also changed the world.James Gleick

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Alphabetical order had to be invented to help people organize the first dictionaries. On the other hand, we may have reached a point where alphabetical order has gone obsolete. Wikipedia is ostensibly in alphabetical order, but, when you think about it, it's not in any order at all. You use a search engine to get into it.James Gleick

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For the modern physicist, reality is the whole thing, past and future joined in a single history. The sensation of now is just that, a sensation, and different for everyone. Instead of one master clock, we have clocks in multitudes.James Gleick

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It's fair to say that Wikipedia has spent far more time considering the philosophical ramifications of categorization than Aristotle and Kant ever did.James Gleick

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We have a habit of turning to scientists when we want factual answers and artists when we want entertainment, but where are the facts about the nature of the self? Neurologists peering at PET scans and fMRIs know they aren't seeing the soul in there.James Gleick

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Novelists are in the business of constructing consciousness out of words, and that's what we all do, cradle to grave. The self is a story we tell.James Gleick

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People worry about Twitter. Twitter is banal. It's 140-character messages. By definition, you can hardly say anything profound. On the other hand, we communicate. And, sometimes, we communicate about things that are important.James Gleick

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Humorists are using Twitter to tell jokes in an interesting way. It doesn't have to be profound, and it doesn't have to be earth-shaking, but it is transformative.James Gleick

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The body itself is an information processor. Memory resides not just in brains but in every cell. No wonder genetics bloomed along with information theory. DNA is the quintessential information molecule, the most advanced message processor at the cellular level - an alphabet and a code, 6 billion bits to form a human being.James Gleick

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The cells of an organism are nodes in a richly interwoven communications network, transmitting and receiving, coding and decoding. Evolution itself embodies an ongoing exchange of information between organism and environment.James Gleick

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Scientifically, information is a choice - a yes-or-no choice. In a broader sense, information is everything that informs our world - writing, painting, music, money.James Gleick

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Information is crucial to our biological substance - our genetic code is information. But before 1950, it was not obvious that inheritance had anything to do with code. And it was only after the invention of the telegraph that we understood that our nerves carry messages, just like wires.James Gleick

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I think we are always right to worry about damaging consequences of new technologies even as we are empowered by them. History suggests we should not panic nor be too sanguine about cool new gizmos. There's a delicate balance.James Gleick

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You know, entropy is associated thermodynamically, in systems involving heat, with disorder. And in an analogous way, information is associated with disorder, which seems paradoxical. But when you think about it, a bit of information is a surprise. If you already knew what the message contained, there would be no new information in it.James Gleick

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As a technology, the book is like a hammer. That is to say, it is perfect: a tool ideally suited to its task. Hammers can be tweaked and varied but will never go obsolete. Even when builders pound nails by the thousand with pneumatic nail guns, every household needs a hammer.James Gleick

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It is significant that one says book lover and music lover and art lover but not record lover or CD lover or, conversely, text lover.James Gleick

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The Fifties and Sixties were years of unreal optimism about weather forecasting. Newspapers and magazines were filled with hope for weather science, not just for prediction but for modification and control. Two technologies were maturing together: the digital computer and the space satellite.James Gleick

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Cyberspace as a mode of being will never go away. We live in cyberspace.James Gleick

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For much of the twentieth century, 1984 was a year that belonged to the future - a strange, gray future at that. Then it slid painlessly into the past, like any other year. Big Brother arrived and settled in, though not at all in the way George Orwell had imagined.James Gleick

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Strangely enough, the linking of computers has taken place democratically, even anarchically. Its rules and habits are emerging in the open light, rather shall behind the closed doors of security agencies or corporate operations centers.James Gleick

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Is privacy about government security agents decrypting your e-mail and then kicking down the front door with their jackboots? Or is it about telemarketers interrupting your supper with cold calls? It depends. Mainly, of course, it depends on whether you live in a totalitarian or a free society.James Gleick

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If we want to live freely and privately in the interconnected world of the twenty-first century - and surely we do - perhaps above all we need a revival of the small-town civility of the nineteenth century. Manners, not devices: sometimes it's just better not to ask, and better not to look.James Gleick

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Despite the metadata attached to each tweet, and despite trails of retweets and 'favorite' tweets, the Twitter corpus lacks the latticework of hyperlinks that makes Google's algorithms so potent. Twitter's famous hashtags - #sandyhook or #fiscalcliff or #girls - are the crudest sort of signposts, not much help for smart searching.James Gleick

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As the Earth continues to slow, leap seconds will grow more common. Eventually we will need one every year, and then even more. Scientists could have avoided these awkward skips by choosing instead to adjust the duration of the second itself. Who would notice? That is what they did, in fact, until 1955.James Gleick

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Particle physicists may freeze a second, open it up, and explore its dappled contents like surgeons pawing through an abdomen, but in real life, when events occur within thousandths of a second, our minds cannot distinguish past from future.James Gleick

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Nanosecond precision matters for worldwide communications systems. It matters for navigation by Global Positioning System satellite signals: an error of a billionth of a second means an error of just about a foot, the distance light travels in that time.James Gleick

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When people say that the Internet is going to make us all geniuses, that was said about the telegraph. On the other hand, when they say the Internet is going to make us stupid, that also was said about the telegraph.James Gleick

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For a brief time in the 1850s, the telegraph companies of England and the United States thought that they could (and should) preserve every message that passed through their wires. Millions of telegrams - in fireproof safes. Imagine the possibilities for history!James Gleick

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Information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom. Reading - even browsing - an old book can yield sustenance denied by a database search. Patience is a virtue, gluttony a sin.James Gleick

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As for memes, the word 'meme' is a cliche, which is to say it's already a meme. We all hear it all the time, and maybe we even have started to use it in ordinary speech. The man who invented it was Richard Dawkins, who was, not coincidentally, an evolutionary biologist. And he invented it as an analog for the gene.James Gleick

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