Book Notes Extraction: A Mind at Play


Here are my notes extracted from A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman.

```javascript { “title”: “A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age”, “author”: “Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman”, “highlightCount”: 65, “noteCount”: 7, “annotations”: [ { “highlight”: “But before Shannon, there was precious little sense of information as an idea, a measurable quantity, an object fitted out for hard science. Before Shannon, information was a telegram, a photograph, a paragraph, a song. After Shannon, information was entirely abstracted into bits.”, “location”: 69, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “they could be used to evaluate any logical statement we could think of, could even appear to “decide.”“, “location”: 82, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “It was summed up in his recognition that all information, no matter the source, the sender, the recipient, or the meaning, could be efficiently represented by a sequence of bits: information’s fundamental unit.“, “location”: 97, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “They were all working models of the physical world—of the slope of a hill or the fall of a shell—simplified down to the essence. They were all, in a way, bare-bones miniatures of the processes they described; they were, in other words, resolutely analog.”, “location”: 28, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “At Bush’s MIT, math and engineering were an extension of the metal shop and the woodshop, and students who were skilled with the planimeter and the slide rule had to be skilled as well with the soldering iron and the saw.”, “location”: 29, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “For the physicist or engineer, two systems that obey the same equations have a kind of identity—or at least an analogy.”, “location”: 31, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Circuit design was, for the first time, a science. And turning art into science would be the hallmark of Shannon’s career.”, “location”: 41, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “there are those who stand a step back from the world, their apartness a condition of their work. Shannon was one of this latter kind: an abstracted man.“, “location”: 46, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “it was a matter of deep conviction”, “location”: 49, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Like something of a genetic Joseph Conrad, he could reach heights of creativity in an adopted language because he had missed learning its clichés in his youth.”, “location”: 54, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Fry’s hunch was that not all mathematicians wanted to write papers and chase tenure. He also guessed that the right environment could play to their strengths and put them to work on practical things, set them on “everyday problems” and “concrete exploitation.” And he was among the few people in a position to make that happen—and to make his case for the “industrial mathematician” as a new breed of thinker-doer.“, “location”: 69, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “The paper illustrates the ways in which the formal education of Claude Shannon the adult had mixed with the informal instruction of Claude Shannon the boy, the one whose childhood was spent happily playing with broken radios and makeshift elevators.”, “location”: 72, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “What if the content of any message and the path of any particle could be described not as mechanical motions, or as randomized nonsense, but as random-looking processes that obeyed laws of probability—what physicists called “stochastic” processes? Think of “the fluctuations in the price of stocks, the ‘random walk’ of a drunk in a sidewalk”—think, for that matter, of a clarinet solo—”, “location”: 76, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: ““I had a good capacity for assimilating information, something of a knack for organizing, an ability to work with people, a zest for exposition, an enthusiasm that helped to advance my ideas. But I lacked that strange and wonderful creative spark that makes a good researcher. Thus I realized that there was a definite ceiling on my possibilities as a mathematics professor.”“, “location”: 84, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “sources of “intelligence” as disparate as the trajectory of a missile and the output of a stock ticker, the pulses in a telegraph line and the instructions in a cell nucleus, had something heretofore unsuspected in common.“, “location”: 89, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Colin Burke puts it in a National Security Agency history of cryptologic efforts called It Wasn’t All Magic,”, “location”: 96, “annotation”: “20 years to declassify!” }, { “highlight”: “First, communication is a war against noise.”, “location”: 123, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Second, there are limits to brute force.”, “location”: 123, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Third, what hope there was of doing better lay in investigating the boundaries between the hard world of physics and the invisible world of messages.”, “location”: 124, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Hartley who made meaning’s irrelevance to information clearer than ever.”, “location”: 130, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “This rolling process of elimination holds true for any message. The information value of a symbol depends on the number of alternatives that were killed off in its choosing. Symbols from large vocabularies bear more information than symbols from small ones. Information measures freedom of choice.”, “location”: 133, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “In the profusion of undersea cables, transcontinental radio calls, pictures sent by phone line, and moving images passing through the air, our sudden skill at communicating had outstripped our knowledge of communication itself.”, “location”: 134, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Treating information, bandwidth, and time as three precise, swappable quantities”, “location”: 135, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Information is stochastic. It is neither fully unpredictable nor fully determined.”, “location”: 145, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “On Shannon’s understanding of information, the redundant symbols are all of the ones we can do without—every letter, word, or line that we can strike with no damage to the information.”, “location”: 152, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Understanding redundancy, we can manipulate it deliberately,”, “location”: 153, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “how fast can we send a message? It depends, Shannon showed, on how much redundancy we can wring out of it.”, “location”: 154, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Shannon’s first theorem proves that there is a point of maximum compactness for every message source. We have reached the limits of communication when every symbol tells us something new.”, “location”: 154, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “there is a hard cap—a “speed limit” in bits per second—on accurate communication in any medium.“, “location”: 157, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Below the channel’s speed limit, we can make our messages as accurate as we desire—for all intents, we can make them perfectly accurate, perfectly free from noise.”, “location”: 157, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Shannon proposed an unsettling inversion. Ignore the physical channel and accept its limits: we can overcome noise by manipulating our messages. The answer to noise is not in how loudly we speak, but in how we say what we say.“, “location”: 158, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “saying the same thing twice in a noisy room is a way of adding redundancy, on the unstated assumption that the same error is unlikely to attach itself to the same place two times in a row. For Shannon, though, there was much more.”, “location”: 158, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “We must be able to write codes, he showed, in which redundancy acts as a shield: codes in which no one bit is indispensable, and thus codes in which any bit can absorb the damage of noise. Once”, “location”: 159, “annotation”: “fuuuuuuck. DNA absorbs damage by redundancy” }, { “highlight”: “But it takes fully three errors to turn one letter”, “location”: 160, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “We only had to signal smarter.”, “location”: 160, “annotation”: “this ihat algorithms do - signal smarter” }, { “highlight”: “1’s and 0’s stood for the fundamental nature of information, an equal choice from a set of two. And now it was evident that any message could be sent flawlessly—we could communicate anything of any complexity to anyone at any distance—provided it was translated into 1’s and 0’s. Logic is digital. Information is digital.”, “location”: 160, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “It is the always incipient mess against which we are pitted as a condition of living. James Gleick put this succintly: “Organisms organize.”“, “location”: 163, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “entropy, the physicists tell us, runs on an eternally upward slope. In the state of maximal entropy, all pockets of predictability would have long since failed: each particle a surprise. And the whole would read, were there then eyes to read it, as the most informative of messages.“, “location”: 163, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “he insisted. “There is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.” A mathematician, then, is not a mere solver of practical problems. He, “like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas.” By contrast, run-of-the-mill applied mathematics was “dull,” “ugly,” “trivial,” and “elementary.”“, “location”: 172, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Shannon was expected to endure a photo shoot, with the renowned Henri Cartier-Bresson”, “location”: 207, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “if you model each one of these with electronic equipment it will act like a human brain. If you take [Bobby] Fischer’s head and make a model of that, it would play like Fischer.“, “location”: 216, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “talent and training had been satisfied,”, “location”: 217, “annotation”: “shannon’s perspective on genius’ components” }, { “highlight”: ““It is a matter of temperament probably; that is, a matter of probably early training, early childhood experiences.” Finally, at a loss for exactly what to call it, he settled on curiosity. “I just won’t go any deeper into it than that.”“, “location”: 218, “annotation”: “the thing missing in latter campers” }, { “highlight”: “genius is simply someone who is usefully irritated.”, “location”: 218, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “the genius must delight in finding solutions.”, “location”: 218, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “many around him were of equal intellect, not everyone derived equal joy from the application of intellect.”, “location”: 218, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Shannon was more concrete: he proposed six strategies,“, “location”: 218, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “simplifying:“, “location”: 219, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “encircle your problem with existing answers to similar questions,”, “location”: 219, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “restate the question:“, “location”: 219, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: ““structural analysis of a problem”—that is, through breaking an overwhelming problem into small pieces.“, “location”: 219, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “inverted. If you can’t use your premises to prove your conclusion, just imagine that the conclusion is already true and see what happens—”, “location”: 222, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “once you’ve found your S, by one of these methods or by any other, take time to see how far it will stretch.”, “location”: 222, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “He went on to express his rationalist faith that any researcher would benefit from naming the tools, from making the unconscious conscious. But if it were really that simple, then why is it that “a very small percentage of the population produces the greatest proportion of the important ideas”?“, “location”: 222, “annotation”: “i am reminded of many learn to code discuSsions many think you have to have genius and schools only organize the practice but genius is requisite” }, { “highlight”: “lecture titled “Reliable Machines from Unreliable Components,”“, “location”: 224, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “I’ve spent lots of time on totally useless things.”“, “location”: 229, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “he made no distinction between his interests in information and his interests in unicycles; they were all moves in the same game.”, “location”: 229, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “if any one of you has a wife, let him confidently set about teaching her whatever he would like to have her know.”“, “location”: 253, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “Those worthy of the Kyoto Prize will be people who have, as have we at Kyocera, worked humbly and devotedly, sparing no effort to seek perfection in their chosen professions. They will be individuals who are sensitive to their own human fallibility and who thereby hold a deeply rooted reverence for excellence.”, “location”: 263, “annotation”: “suitable basis for a business charter” }, { “highlight”: “That human life had been so utterly reshaped over a handful of life spans was largely, he believed, the work of engineers.”, “location”: 265, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.”, “location”: 273, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “those values? Simplicity matters. Elegant math was forceful math. Inessential items, superfluous writing, extra work—all of them should be discarded.”, “location”: 274, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “They called this impression the mathematical virtue of “integrity,” the sense that a Shannon paper is a seamless whole.“, “location”: 274, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “These days it’s rare to talk about math and science as opportunities to revel in discovery. We speak, instead, about their practical benefits—to society, the economy, our prospects for employment. STEM courses are the means to job security, not joy.”, “location”: 279, “annotation”: “” }, { “highlight”: “The project was seriously unserious.”, “location”: 280, “annotation”: “” } ] }