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The Ascent of Information Summary

Caleb Scharf

The Ascent of Information

by Caleb Scharf

The Ascent of Information

Caleb Scharf

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Astrobiologist Caleb Scharf lifts the lid on one of the most profound forces in our lives: information. It's all around us, but how does it affect us, our world, and our universe?

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The Ascent of Information

by Caleb Scharf

The Ascent of Information

Caleb Scharf

Overview

Information is organized data—raw observations organized into a form that has meaning for humans. Today, we take our abundance of information for granted. We don't realize the effects that it – and the power-hungry infrastructure supporting it – has on our society, planet, and the wider universe.

Caleb Scharf is an author and director of the Columbia Astrobiology Center at Columbia University. In his 2021 book The Ascent of Information: Books, Bits, Genes, Machines, and Life's Unending Algorithm, Scharf lays out complex and thought-provoking ideas on the mountains of information we generate.

The book touches on areas including our data's energy cost, its evolutionary behavior, and the concept of entropy. These ideas inform one of Scharf's central theses: that the generation and processing of information may be the driving force behind life itself.

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Favorite Quote

"You are… both an essential part of the machinery of information and a filthy leaky creature, splashing around in the ocean of letters, words, and bits. You simply cannot help but consume and shed data."

Caleb Scharf

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The Ascent of Information

Caleb Scharf

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