A million years ago, I helped a celebrated science writer and a semi-professional bridge player, Uday Ivatury, launch the first NYC ISP focused on consumers: The Pipeline. It was a wonderful experience.
The celebrated science writer was James Gleick and he's as justly celebrated today as he was then when had "only" publish the first two of his books, Chaos and Genius. Now, he has had his sixth book published, The Information, and the reviews are excellent. It is also going to be shelved alongside some of the books I've recently written about that address similar issues: the perils and promise of the information age.
A recent review caught my eye as it ended up being caught in the same news scan as Mr. Stoppard's clips. Here's the relevant bit:
And yet, Gleick remains relatively sanguine on the ability of systems, or networks, to sort themselves. (He writes at length about Wikipedia as a self-policing community, despite the skepticism it provokes among journalists and academics.) Or to remain unsorted, since ultimately there is so much information that "[o]ne can fairly say that even God has forgotten." Toward the end of the book, he recalls the great library of Alexandria, which, beginning in the third century BC, "maintained the greatest collection of knowledge on earth, then and for centuries to come." Among its hundreds of thousands of scrolls, Gleick tells us, were "the dramas of Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides; the mathematics of Euclid, Archimedes, and Eratosthenes; poetry, medical texts, star charts, mystical writings. … And then it burned."
The point, of course, is that everything is perishable, that the universe itself is erasable — except that it's not. "All the lost plays of the Athenians!" he declares, citing a line from Tom Stoppard's play "Arcadia." "How can we sleep for grief?" The answer is simple: "By counting our stock."
This, Gleick concludes, is the great rule of the universe, and of the library, both actual and figurative, as well. "The library will endure," he writes; "it is the universe. … We walk the corridors, searching the shelves and rearranging them, looking for lines of meaning amid leagues of cacophony and incoherence" — just as we have always done. [more]
I wonder if Mr. Gleick has had a chance to see the Broadway revival of Arcadia? It's bound to be one of his favorites.