Top Quotes by James Gleick

We say that time passes, time goes by, and time flows. Those are metaphors. We also think of time as a medium in which we exist.

James Gleick

The Fifties and Sixties were years of unreal optimism about weather forecasting. Newspapers and magazines were filled with hope for weather science, not just for prediction but for modification and control. Two technologies were maturing together: the digital computer and the space satellite.

James Gleick

As soon as the printing press started flooding Europe with books, people were complaining that there were too many books and that it was going to change philosophy and the course of human thought in ways that wouldn’t necessarily be good.

James Gleick

With the advent of computing, human invention crossed a threshold into a world different from everything that came before. The computer is the universal machine almost by definition, machine-of-all-trades, capable of accomplishing or simulating just about any task that can be logically defined.

James Gleick

The body itself is an information processor. Memory resides not just in brains but in every cell. No wonder genetics bloomed along with information theory. DNA is the quintessential information molecule, the most advanced message processor at the cellular level – an alphabet and a code, 6 billion bits to form a human being.

James Gleick

Every time a new technology comes along, we feel we’re about to break through to a place where we will not be able to recover. The advent of broadcast radio confused people. It delighted people, of course, but it also changed the world.

James Gleick

At its most fundamental, information is a binary choice. In other words, a single bit of information is one yes-or-no choice.

James Gleick

Information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom. Reading – even browsing – an old book can yield sustenance denied by a database search. Patience is a virtue, gluttony a sin.

James Gleick

If we want to live freely and privately in the interconnected world of the twenty-first century – and surely we do – perhaps above all we need a revival of the small-town civility of the nineteenth century. Manners, not devices: sometimes it’s just better not to ask, and better not to look.

James Gleick

We have met the Devil of Information Overload and his impish underlings, the computer virus, the busy signal, the dead link, and the PowerPoint presentation.

James Gleick

For a brief time in the 1850s, the telegraph companies of England and the United States thought that they could (and should) preserve every message that passed through their wires. Millions of telegrams – in fireproof safes. Imagine the possibilities for history!

James Gleick

Memes can be visual. Our image of George Washington is a meme. We don’t actually have any idea what George Washington looked like. There are so many different portraits of him, and they’re all different. But we have an image in our head, and that image is propagated from one place to another, from one person to another.

James Gleick

It’s important with any new technology to try to pay conscious attention to what the drawbacks might be. We choose to multitask. Sometimes our choices aren’t the wisest of choices, and we regret them, but they are our choices. I think it’d be wrong to think that they’re automatically bad.

James Gleick

Patents have long served as a fundamental cog in the American machine, cherished in our national soul.

James Gleick

Cyberspace as a mode of being will never go away. We live in cyberspace.

James Gleick

Alphabetical order had to be invented to help people organize the first dictionaries. On the other hand, we may have reached a point where alphabetical order has gone obsolete. Wikipedia is ostensibly in alphabetical order, but, when you think about it, it’s not in any order at all. You use a search engine to get into it.

James Gleick

Type ‘What is th’ and faster than you can find the ‘e’ Google is sending choices back at you: ‘What is the cloud?’ ‘What is the mean?’ ‘What is the American dream?’ ‘What is the illuminati?’ Google is trying to read your mind. Only it’s not your mind. It’s the World Brain.

James Gleick

Information theory began as a bridge from mathematics to electrical engineering and from there to computing.

James Gleick

Children and scientists share an outlook on life. ‘If I do this, what will happen?’ is both the motto of the child at play and the defining refrain of the physical scientist.

James Gleick

As for memes, the word ‘meme’ is a cliche, which is to say it’s already a meme. We all hear it all the time, and maybe we even have started to use it in ordinary speech. The man who invented it was Richard Dawkins, who was, not coincidentally, an evolutionary biologist. And he invented it as an analog for the gene.

James Gleick

Is privacy about government security agents decrypting your e-mail and then kicking down the front door with their jackboots? Or is it about telemarketers interrupting your supper with cold calls? It depends. Mainly, of course, it depends on whether you live in a totalitarian or a free society.

James Gleick

We have a habit of turning to scientists when we want factual answers and artists when we want entertainment, but where are the facts about the nature of the self? Neurologists peering at PET scans and fMRIs know they aren’t seeing the soul in there.

James Gleick

As a technology, the book is like a hammer. That is to say, it is perfect: a tool ideally suited to its task. Hammers can be tweaked and varied but will never go obsolete. Even when builders pound nails by the thousand with pneumatic nail guns, every household needs a hammer.

James Gleick

When people say that the Internet is going to make us all geniuses, that was said about the telegraph. On the other hand, when they say the Internet is going to make us stupid, that also was said about the telegraph.

James Gleick

For the modern physicist, reality is the whole thing, past and future joined in a single history. The sensation of now is just that, a sensation, and different for everyone. Instead of one master clock, we have clocks in multitudes.

James Gleick

Scientifically, information is a choice – a yes-or-no choice. In a broader sense, information is everything that informs our world – writing, painting, music, money.

James Gleick

Nanosecond precision matters for worldwide communications systems. It matters for navigation by Global Positioning System satellite signals: an error of a billionth of a second means an error of just about a foot, the distance light travels in that time.

James Gleick

In cyberspace, the Wikipedians never stop gathering: It’s a continuous round-the-clock rolling workfest.

James Gleick

Genes themselves are made of bits.

James Gleick

I take the view that we all have permission to be a little baffled by quantum information science and algorithmic information theory.

James Gleick

Google is where we go for answers. People used to go elsewhere or, more likely, stagger along not knowing.

James Gleick

It is seldom right to say that anything is true ‘according to Google.’ Google is the oracle of redirection. Go there for ‘hamadryad,’ and it points you to Wikipedia. Or the Free Online Dictionary. Or the Official Hamadryad Web Site (it’s a rock band, too, wouldn’t you know).

James Gleick

We get better search results and we see more appropriate advertising when we let Google know who we are.

James Gleick

Flying was great. You have to think fast. You have to develop intuition about the physics of air moving quickly over a surface.

James Gleick

I’m trying to look at many, many things in modern life that I believe are going faster, and I’m trying to look at why they’re going faster and what effect they have on us. We all know about FedEx and instant pudding, but it doesn’t mean we’ve looked at all the consequences of our desire for speed.

James Gleick

If instantaneity is what we want, television cannot compete with cyberspace.

James Gleick

A bit, the smallest unit of information, the fundamental particle of information theory, is a choice, yes or no, on or off. It’s a choice that you can embody in electrical circuits, and it is thanks to that that we have all this ubiquitous computing.

James Gleick

In spacetime, all events are baked together: a four-dimensional continuum. Past and future are no more privileged than left and right or up and down.

James Gleick

For the modern physicist, reality is the whole thing, past and future joined in a single history. The sensation of now is just that, a sensation, and different for everyone. Instead of one master clock, we have clocks in multitudes.

James Gleick

It’s fair to say that Wikipedia has spent far more time considering the philosophical ramifications of categorization than Aristotle and Kant ever did.

James Gleick

Novelists are in the business of constructing consciousness out of words, and that’s what we all do, cradle to grave. The self is a story we tell.

James Gleick

People worry about Twitter. Twitter is banal. It’s 140-character messages. By definition, you can hardly say anything profound. On the other hand, we communicate. And, sometimes, we communicate about things that are important.

James Gleick

Humorists are using Twitter to tell jokes in an interesting way. It doesn’t have to be profound, and it doesn’t have to be earth-shaking, but it is transformative.

James Gleick

The cells of an organism are nodes in a richly interwoven communications network, transmitting and receiving, coding and decoding. Evolution itself embodies an ongoing exchange of information between organism and environment.

James Gleick

Information is crucial to our biological substance – our genetic code is information. But before 1950, it was not obvious that inheritance had anything to do with code. And it was only after the invention of the telegraph that we understood that our nerves carry messages, just like wires.

James Gleick

When people say that the Internet is going to make us all geniuses, that was said about the telegraph. On the other hand, when they say the Internet is going to make us stupid, that also was said about the telegraph.

James Gleick

I think we are always right to worry about damaging consequences of new technologies even as we are empowered by them. History suggests we should not panic nor be too sanguine about cool new gizmos. There’s a delicate balance.

James Gleick

You know, entropy is associated thermodynamically, in systems involving heat, with disorder. And in an analogous way, information is associated with disorder, which seems paradoxical. But when you think about it, a bit of information is a surprise. If you already knew what the message contained, there would be no new information in it.

James Gleick

It is significant that one says book lover and music lover and art lover but not record lover or CD lover or, conversely, text lover.

James Gleick

Encyclopedias are finished. All encyclopedias combined, including the redoubtable Britannica, have already been surpassed by the exercise in groupthink known as Wikipedia.

James Gleick

Basic dictionaries no longer belong on paper; the greatest, the ‘Oxford English Dictionary,’ has nimbly remade itself in cyberspace, where it has doubled in size and grown more timely and usable than ever.

James Gleick

For much of the twentieth century, 1984 was a year that belonged to the future – a strange, gray future at that. Then it slid painlessly into the past, like any other year. Big Brother arrived and settled in, though not at all in the way George Orwell had imagined.

James Gleick