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Richly illustrated and exhaustively researched, "Glut" takes readers on an intriguing cross-disciplinary journey through the deep history of human knowledge systems and examines the problem of information overload.
What do primordial bacteria, medieval alchemists, and the World Wide Web have to do with each other? This fascinating exploration of how information systems emerge takes readers on a provocative journey through the history of the information age. Today's "information explosion" may seem like an acutely modern phenomenon, but we are not the first generationâ€"nor even the first speciesâ€"to wrestle with the problem of information overload. Long before the advent of computers, human beings were collecting, storing, and organizing information: from Ice Age taxonomies to Sumerian archives, Greek libraries to Dark Age monasteries. Today, we stand at a precipice, as our old systems struggle to cope with what designer Richard Saul Wurman called a "tsunami of data." With some historical perspective, however, we can begin to understand our predicament not just as the result of technological change, but as the latest chapter in an ancient story that we are only beginning to understand. Spanning disciplines from evolutionary theory and cultural anthropology to the history of books, libraries, and computer science, writer and information architect Alex Wright weaves an intriguing narrative that connects such seemingly far-flung topics as insect colonies, Stone Age jewelry, medieval monasteries, Renaissance encyclopedias, early computer networks, and the World Wide Web. Finally, he pulls these threads together to reach a surprising conclusion, suggesting that the future of the information age may lie deep in our cultural past.
What do primordial bacteria, medieval alchemists, and the World Wide Web have to do with each other? This fascinating exploration of how information systems emerge takes readers on a provocative journey through the history of the information age. Today's "information explosion" may seem like an acutely modern phenomenon, but we are not the first generation-nor even the first species-to wrestle with the problem of information overload. Long before the advent of computers, human beings were collecting, storing, and organizing information: from Ice Age taxonomies to Sumerian archives, Greek libraries to Dark Age monasteries. Today, we stand at a precipice, as our old systems struggle to cope with what designer Richard Saul Wurman called a "tsunami of data." With some historical perspective, however, we can begin to understand our predicament not just as the result of technological change, but as the latest chapter in an ancient story that we are only beginning to understand. Spanning disciplines from evolutionary theory and cultural anthropology to the history of books, libraries, and computer science, writer and information architect Alex Wright weaves an intriguing narrative that connects such seemingly far-flung topics as insect colonies, Stone Age jewelry, medieval monasteries, Renaissance encyclopedias, early computer networks, and the World Wide Web. Finally, he pulls these threads together to reach a surprising conclusion, suggesting that the future of the information age may lie deep in our cultural past.
The dream of capturing and organizing knowledge is as old as history. From the archives of ancient Sumeria and the Library of Alexandria to the Library of Congress and Wikipedia, humanity has wrestled with the problem of harnessing its intellectual output. The timeless quest for wisdom has been as much about information storage and retrieval as creative genius. In Cataloging the World, Alex Wright introduces us to a figure who stands out in the long line of thinkers and idealists who devoted themselves to the task. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, Paul Otlet, a librarian by training, worked at expanding the potential of the catalog card, the world's first information chip. From there followed universal libraries and museums, connecting his native Belgium to the world by means of a vast intellectual enterprise that attempted to organize and code everything ever published. Forty years before the first personal computer and fifty years before the first browser, Otlet envisioned a network of "electric telescopes" that would allow people everywhere to search through books, newspapers, photographs, and recordings, all linked together in what he termed, in 1934, a réseau mondial--essentially, a worldwide web. Otlet's life achievement was the construction of the Mundaneum--a mechanical collective brain that would house and disseminate everything ever committed to paper. Filled with analog machines such as telegraphs and sorters, the Mundaneum--what some have called a "Steampunk version of hypertext"--was the embodiment of Otlet's ambitions. It was also short-lived. By the time the Nazis, who were pilfering libraries across Europe to collect information they thought useful, carted away Otlet's collection in 1940, the dream had ended. Broken, Otlet died in 1944. Wright's engaging intellectual history gives Otlet his due, restoring him to his proper place in the long continuum of visionaries and pioneers who have struggled to classify knowledge, from H.G. Wells and Melvil Dewey to Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson, Tim Berners-Lee, and Steve Jobs. Wright shows that in the years since Otlet's death the world has witnessed the emergence of a global network that has proved him right about the possibilities--and the perils--of networked information, and his legacy persists in our digital world today, captured for all time.
The Mohammad Code tells the story of how Mohammad invented jihad and demanded that it conquer the earth.
As in the bestselling The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, Leonard Shlain’s provocative new book promises to change the way readers view themselves and where they came from. Sex, Time, and Power offers a tantalizing answer to an age-old question: Why did big-brained Homo sapiens suddenly emerge some 150,000 years ago? The key, according to Shlain, is female sexuality. Drawing on an awesome breadth of research, he shows how, long ago, the narrowness of the newly bipedal human female’s pelvis and the increasing size of infants’ heads precipitated a crisis for the species. Natural selection allowed for the adaptation of the human female to this environmental stress by reconfiguring her hormonal cycles, entraining them with the periodicity of the moon. The results, however, did much more than ensure our existence; they imbued women with the concept of time, and gave them control over sex—a power that males sought to reclaim. And the possibility of achieving immortality through heirs drove men to construct patriarchal cultures that went on to dominate so much of human history. From the nature of courtship to the evolution of language, Shlain’s brilliant and wide-ranging exploration stimulates new thinking about very old matters.
We've come so far, so fast. Within a relatively short period of time, we've managed to put enormous computing power in offices and homes around the globe. But before there was an IBM computer, before there were laptops and personal PCs, there were small independent teams of pioneers working on the development of the very first computer. Scattered around the globe and ranging in temperament and talent, they forged the future in basement labs, backyard, workshops, and old horse barns. Tracing the period just after World War II when the first truly modern computers were developed, Electronic Brains chronicles the escapades of the world's first "techies." Some of the initial projects are quite famous and well known, such as "LEO", the Lyons Electronic Office, which was developed by the catering company J. Lyons & Co. in London in the 1940s. Others are a bit more arcane, such as the ABC, which was built in a basement at Iowa State College and was abandoned to obscurity at the beginning of WWII. And then - like the tale of the Rand 409 which wss constructed in a barn in Connecticut under the watchful eye of a stuffed moose - there are the stories that are virtually unknown. All combine to create a fascinating history of a now-ubiquitous technology. Relying on extensive interviews from surviving members of the original teams of hardware jockeys, author Mike Hally recreates the atmosphere of the early days of computing. Rich with provocative and entertaining descriptions, we are introduced go the many eccentric, obsessive, and fiercely loyal men and women who laid the foundations for the computerized world in which we now live. As the acronyms fly fast and furious - UNIVAC, CSIRAC, and MESM, to name just a few - Electronic Brains provides a vivid sense of time, place, and science.

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