ATG Book of the Week: A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age

Title: A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age
Author: Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman
Hardcover: ISBN: 978-1476766683, $27
Imprint: New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017

“The life and times of one of the foremost intellects of the twentieth century: Claude Shannon—the architect of the Information Age, whose insights stand behind every computer built, email sent, video streamed, and webpage loaded.

Claude Shannon was a groundbreaking polymath, a brilliant tinkerer, and a digital pioneer. He constructed a fleet of customized unicycles and a flamethrowing trumpet, outfoxed Vegas casinos, and built juggling robots. He also wrote the seminal text of the digital revolution, which has been called “the Magna Carta of the Information Age.” His discoveries would lead contemporaries to compare him to Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. His work anticipated by decades the world we’d be living in today—and gave mathematicians and engineers the tools to bring that world to pass.

In this elegantly written, exhaustively researched biography, Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman reveal Claude Shannon’s full story for the first time. It’s the story of a small-town Michigan boy whose career stretched from the era of room-sized computers powered by gears and string to the age of Apple. It’s the story of the origins of our digital world in the tunnels of MIT and the “idea factory” of Bell Labs, in the “scientists’ war” with Nazi Germany, and in the work of Shannon’s collaborators and rivals, thinkers like Alan Turing, John von Neumann, Vannevar Bush, and Norbert Wiener.

And it’s the story of Shannon’s life as an often reclusive, always playful genius. With access to Shannon’s family and friends, A Mind at Play brings this singular innovator and creative genius to life.”

 

Reviews

“Claude Shannon wrote the ‘the Magna Carta of the Information Age’ and conceived of the basic concept underlying all digital computers. Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman offer a long overdue, insightful, and humane portrait of this eccentric and towering genius.” (Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, The Innovators, and Einstein)

 

“An exceptionally elegant and authoritative portrait of a man of few words but many big ideas. Soni and Goodman’s elucidations of Claude Shannon’s theories are gems of conciseness and clarity, and their case for placing him in the same pantheon as Turing and von Neumann is compelling.” (Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award)

 

“Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman have written a fascinating, readable, and necessary biography of a true American genius. This is the book that finally explains Claude Shannon’s character and career as well as the context of his extraordinary life and times.” (Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation)

 

“An avid biography full of freewheeling curiosity and fun. It’s a pleasure getting to know you, Claude Shannon!” (Siobhan Roberts, author of Genius at Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway)

 

“Shannon was to information and communication what Newton was to physics. By following his curiosity through the playground of science, he discovered mathematical laws that govern our digital age. The Shannon I worked with comes alive in these pages.” (Edward O. Thorp, author of A Man For All Markets and Beat The Dealer)

 

“At last a biography of a man who shaped the Information Age we live in, and a thinker who combined the playfulness of Richard Feynman with the genius of Albert Einstein. For anyone interested in living both a playful and a thoughtful life, there is no better model than Claude Shannon—and no better writing team than Soni and Goodman to have written the book on it.” (Ryan Holiday, bestselling author of The Daily Stoic and The Obstacle Is The Way)

 

“A brilliant treatment of the life of Claude Shannon, one of the 20th century’s most remarkable scientists in the field of information technology. This giant of a man launched the digital world we now inhabit, but his not the household name it deserves to be. Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman have corrected this with their superb new book presenting Shannon’s amazing personal and professional life.” (Professor Leonard Kleinrock, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science, UCLA, and winner, 2007 National Medal of Science)

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