What do we know and when did we know it? Former New York Times writer James Gleick (the man who popularized "the butterfly effect" in Chaos) has produced the definitive history of the age in which we live, The Information. He talks with Robyn Williams.
James Gleick was born in New York City in 1954. He graduated from Harvard College in 1976 and helped found Metropolis, an alternative weekly newspaper in Minneapolis. Then he worked for ten years as an editor and reporter for The New York Times.
His first book, Chaos, was a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist and a national bestseller. He collaborated with the photographer Eliot Porter on Nature's Chaos and with developers at Autodesk on Chaos: The Software. His next books include the best-selling biographies, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton, both shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, as well as Faster and What Just Happened. They have been translated into twenty-five languages.
In 1989-90 he was the McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University. For some years he wrote the Fast Forward column in the New York Times Magazine.
With Uday Ivatury, he founded The Pipeline, a pioneering New York City-based Internet service in 1993, and was its chairman and chief executive officer until 1995. He was the first editor of the Best American Science Writing series. He is active on the boards of the Authors Guild and the Key West Literary Seminar.
Science journalist and broadcaster Robyn Williams presents Radio National's Science Show, Ockham's Razor and In Conversation.
Although he graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in England, Williams admits to spending as much time acting as studying. Early in his career he made guest appearances in The Goodies, Monty Python's Flying Circus and Dr. Who and stood in for Tom Jones for four months in his TV series.
He has conducted countless interviews with scientists on ABC TV on programs such as Quantum and Catalyst, narrated the Nature of Australia series and appeared in World Safari with David Attenborough.
James Gleick, author of The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, explores the deep implications that the development of writing had on humanity. Despite opposition from great thinkers like Plato, the ability to write has made possible many things that we now take for granted.
As computers become more advanced, there are fewer and fewer things that people are able to do that computers are not. But, author James Gleick argues, while computers are currently both "surprisingly good" and "surprisingly bad" at tasks like translation, by gathering input from human users, they may eventually understand concepts as complex as art and emotion.