At first glance, the universe seems hostile to order. Thermodynamics dictates that over time, order - or information - disappears. Whispers vanish in the wind just like the beauty of swirling cigarette smoke collapses into disorderly clouds. But thermodynamics also has loopholes that promote the growth of information in pockets. Although cities are all pockets where information grows, they are not all the same. For every Silicon Valley, Tokyo, and Paris, there are dozens of places with economies that accomplish little more than pulling rocks out of the ground. So, why does the US economy outstrip Brazil's, and Brazil's that of Chad? Why did the technology corridor along Boston's Route 128 languish, while Silicon Valley blossomed? In each case, the key is how people, firms, and the networks they form make use of information.
Seen from Hidalgo's vantage, economies become distributed computers, made of networks of people, and the problem of economic development becomes the problem of making these computers more powerful. By uncovering the mechanisms that enable the growth of information in nature and society, Why Information Grows lays bare the origins of physical order and economic growth. Situated at the nexus of information theory, physics, sociology, and economics, this book propounds a new theory of how economies can do not just more things, but more interesting things.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By bpjammin on 07-01-17
This may be the most eloquently written science book I’ve ever read and one that manages to make extremely complicated information easier to comprehend. It is certainly comparable to Feynman’s Lectures, in terms of reducing the complex to simpler subsets for the novice, which Hidalgo manages to do without use of complex mathematics.
During the past year I have listened to/read dozens of science books concerning genetics, microbiology, evolutionary biology, evolutionary theory, cognitive & evolutionary neuroscience and one of the things I noticed was that all this evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and that certain aspects of evolution can't be explained by Darwinian theory, leading some to speculate about "design," however, I stumbled upon this book on information theory and it resolves most of the problems aforementioned without resorting to design.
Also, without ever referencing McLuhan, this book elucidates many of McLuhan’s aphorisms: like The Media (transmission of content) is The Message (content has no intrinsic meaning,) and McLuhan’s assertion that technologies are evolutionary extensions (wheel extends foot, phone extends voice…) are also supported by information theory as presented here.
What surprised me most was the lack of any reference to Information Theory in any of the books I have read concerning the physical sciences. How can Evolutionary Theory have missed such a big data set necessary to extend its own theories? It’s a glaring omission from the works I’ve read thus far.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By Adam Kahn on 03-10-16
Fantastic lense to see the world
This was a strong case for how to view the world and how the leading indicator of economic prosperity is told in the complexity of organization of information
5 of 5 people found this review helpful