The Story of Information

2012, Science  -  59 min Leave a Comment
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Over 5,000 years ago, mankind happened upon a revolutionary invention that would forever change the course of history: the written word. Without this seismic discovery, the world would be devoid of information, which is one of our most significant and misunderstood commodities. This enthralling documentary traces the evolution of information sharing throughout history, and the struggle within the scientific community to understand the implications of its immense power.

The earliest examples of information transmissions came out of Mesopotamia, and consisted of rustic symbols and drawn pictures that represented various sounds. The film does a noble job of outlining the evolution of information from ancient hieroglyphics to the increasingly sophisticated and impenetrable forms of computer coding used today.

You might think a subject like the history of information might take an obvious path, but its journey to our present-day is often obtuse and unexpected. For instance, how did a series of 24,000 punch cards used on a tapestry loom represent the next evolution of information gathering and sharing? How are simple symbols used to describe all things contained in our universe? How has electricity redefined the manner in which we cultivate information? How might recent advances in DNA manipulation transform our next information age?

During the course of the film, historians speak to the nature of information as it applies to various fields like art, telecommunications, and our modern computing technologies. Along the way, we learn about the scientists who have changed our approach to using and understanding information throughout the centuries, including famed mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, maverick engineer Claude Shannon, and French weaver Joseph Marie Jacquard.

The film is a part of science-based series hosted by acclaimed physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili in which basic elements of our everyday lives are examined in microscopic detail. The unifying theme of the series is the order and disorder of the universe. The insights are often revelatory and might challenge or expand your views of the commonplace systems that help the world function.

The film is a stimulating lesson on how information forms the basis of our history and our future.

Directed by: Nic Stacey