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A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age
A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age
A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age
Audiobook11 hours

A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age

Written by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni

Narrated by Jonathan Yen

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



About this audiobook

Claude Shannon was a tinkerer, a playful wunderkind, a groundbreaking polymath, and a digital pioneer whose insights made the Information Age possible. He constructed fire-breathing trumpets and customized unicycles, outfoxed Vegas casinos, and built juggling robots, but he also wrote the seminal text of the digital revolution. That work allowed scientists to measure and manipulate information as objectively as any physical object. His work gave mathematicians and engineers the tools to bring that world to pass.

Now, Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman bring Claude Shannon's story to life. It's the story of a small-town boy from Michigan whose career stretched from the age of room-sized computers powered by gears and string to the age of the Apple desktop. It's the story of the origins of information 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. 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 explores the life and times of this singular innovator and creative genius.
PublisherTantor Audio
Release dateJul 18, 2017

Rob Goodman

Rob Goodman is Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Administration at Toronto Metropolitan University, where he teaches and writes on topics including rhetoric, populism, and the history of political thought. He previously worked as a speechwriter in the US House and Senate. He is the author and coauthor of several books, including Words on Fire: Eloquence and Its Conditions.

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Reviews for A Mind at Play

Rating: 4.16 out of 5 stars

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  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Excellent read. There were a few slow spots but plow through because the book is full of gems. A real delight to learn about Claude Shannon.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    I enjoyed this biography of the life of Claude Shannon, and in the process, I learned more about his lesser-known accomplishments: the first wearable computer, his works on chess (including a chess-playing "computer") and cryptography, and his early work on digital logic. His eccentricities also made for interesting anecdotes: the love of unicycles, juggling, and gadgets. A fun and easy read.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Absolutely wonderful! Introverts will find a kindred spirit in Shannon. I am not a mathematician or engineer—to enjoy the book does not require expertise in these fields—but anyone with scientific interests will gain a lot from reading it. Claude’s fingerprints are all over the modern world, and it was inspiring to read about him. He has been unfairly forgotten as a hero of the computer. Cannot recommend enough!
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    Claude Shannon lived a life of curiosity. I enjoyed the chapters mentioning about Bell Labs. I would recommend this book to Information theory, CS, Mathematicians or people looking to understand Scientists

    Deus Vult
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    For years, I have been reading references to Claude Shannon because of his involvement in so many critical developments in science, communications, Bell Labs, and even the stock market. About his sense of humor or his riding a unicycle through Bell Labs – while juggling (a favorite hobby). And about his groundbreaking, earth-shaking realization that all communication, from voice to music to documents to photos – is all data and could be treated the same way. Without this insight, I could not post this review today. But there was no way to get my fill of Claude Shannon – no biographies or documentaries of an American genius who lived until 2001! A Mind At Play begins to fill this yawning gap (and it seems a documentary is finally in the works as well). Shannon was a natural. He simply did. Whatever caught his eye. He invented machines all his life, designed them, machined them, theorized their optimization, and cleared the air on numerous topics that concerned them. His great gift to us was his reductionism. He could look at a problem and strip away the redundancies, the tangents, the superfluities – and the noise. Especially the noise. The bare core that was left was now addressable and solvable. With that, he could add back the other factors as needed. It made his solutions elegant. This clarity of vision is dispiritingly rare. That a man of his many other abilities had it has benefitted the world disproportionately.He was in it for the intellectual challenge. While other scientists won Nobel Prizes, fame, fortune, privilege and rank, Shannon shunned the limelight and kept working (and playing). “Down to Earth” doesn’t begin to describe him. His toy room served him to the end. He hated speeches, and preferred playing the clarinet (or chess) to lecturing. This was in no way a stock-standard scientist. His brilliance was evident to everyone throughout his long life. And he worked with all of the most brilliant. My favorite story in the book is when his young daughter brought out a package of toothpicks and dropped them all over the wood plank floor. Rather than scold her or instruct her to clean it right up, Shannon observed: ”You know, you could calculate the value of pi from that.” I also liked the index finger he installed in the basement toy room. When his wife wanted him to come upstairs, she pulled the cord in the kitchen and the finger curled upward. This man makes for a fascinating biography.Among his great discoveries was how to eliminate noise. Noise in the transmission of data corrupts it, making the message incomplete, wrong or unintelligible. Shannon broke down elements to their smallest, and assigned them numeric labels. If you gave (say) a letter a two digit equivalent, you would get a wrong letter if one of the digits was blurred by noise. By giving them longer strings of digits, they could tolerate noise and still be correct at the receiving end. This sort of outside the box thinking revolutionized countless industries.We owe Claude Shannon a lot, and Sori & Goodman’s book takes a big first step in paying that debt.David Wineberg
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Maxwell, Einstein, Turing, Shannon. These are names that define the Information Age. Those that do not know these names are missing the greatest story in science that developed since the 1880's. The very fact that I can write this review and post it to the internet is a testament to their theoretical understanding and their influence on countless engineers who developed the technology for common use. Their spirit of rapt curiosity is one to draw inspiration from.Have you ever noticed static noise on your telephone calls? If you can't think of the last time there was a scratchy sound coming through your earpiece, thank Claude Shannon.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    The book excitedly repeats itself, fawning over the subject matter. The guy is amazing, I know, that's why I even considered reading this. I know it's just a biography but it's too light on Shannon's technical work.