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

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

Author: Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Biography

Themes: Computer Science, Information

Format: Audio book

Finished: January 1, 2018

Purchase link

An excellent biography of Claude Shannon, father of information theory.

What I took away:

  • Unstructured play and experimentation as a child is so crucial.
  • Intellectual curiosity trumps book learning every day of the week.
  • Pretty much every digital device we have today has an analog component:
    • CDs
    • Calculators
    • Topography/topology equipment
    • Computers
  • How crucial it is to have someone you intellectually respect as your spouse.
  • How devastating WWII the war effort was to the world’s intellectual development. It got so many incredible projects off track by hijacking the world’s greatest minds and making them build weapons.
  • How having smart people all together in one place spurs interesting conversations and leads to new things.
  • The proper work/life balance is integrating your work into your everyday life, not just 9-5.
  • All forms of communication share the same basic elements, no matter the sender or medium. Shannon laid this out in A Mathematical Theory of Communication in 1948:
    • A source produces the message.
    • A transmitter translates the message into a signal that can be sent through a particular medium.
    • A medium, over which the signal is sent.
    • Noise interfering with the signal across the medium.
    • A receiver, which receives the signal and translates it back into a format that the destination can understand.
    • A destination, for which the message is intended.

Here is a diagram I drew of these elements:

Mathematical Theory of Communication

This was an excellent book that I’ll probably revisit.