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By Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni, co-authors, A MIND AT PLAY

EDIT: We updated the following post for Claude Shannon’s 104th birthday on April 30th, 2020. In addition to the 103 quotes in the original, we added one from a hand-written letter Dr. Shannon wrote to a professor friend.

“Since retiring from MIT, I have been getting into all kinds of mischief, for instance, trying to become a poet.”


Claude Shannon, who was born 103 years ago today, was one of the most influential scientific geniuses of the 20th century. And, relative to his contributions, he may have been…

A speech from one of the 20th century’s most brilliant minds about how to be creative.

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As a part of writing the biography of Claude Shannon, we waded through papers — tons of them.

At the Library of Congress alone, there were 21 boxes worth of Claude Shannon papers. We went through each carton, page by page. And that was just the beginning. Outside of what was in that collection, there were other published and unpublished volumes of Shannon’s work, totaling in the thousands of pages; never-before-seen interviews given to us by his family and others; letters and memos from countless collaborators and friends. …

Insights on work and creativity from the life of mathematician Claude Shannon, the most influential figure you’ve never heard of

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Photo: Nokia Bell Labs

By Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni, co-authors of A Mind at Play

For five years, we lived with one of the most brilliant people on the planet.

Sort of.

See, we spent those all-consuming five years writing our biography of American mathematician Claude Shannon, whose work in the 1930s and ’40s earned him the title of “father of the information age.” That’s how long it took us to understand the influence of the most important genius you’ve never heard of, a man whose intellect was on par with that of Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.

During that time, we spent…

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Last week brought the latest act in the theater of the absurd that has become China’s internet policy.

The Cyberspace Administration of China went after “vulgar culture” online by cracking down on account handles and avatars containing, among other things, celebrity names. So goodbye and good riddance “BarackObama44” and “KimKardashian353” — you have, according to the Chinese internet overseers, “polluted the Internet ecology, harmed the interests of the masses and seriously violated core socialist values.”

It’s tempting to laugh. But for Chinese dissenters, the consequences of this change are deadly serious. As of March 1, users of forums, messaging services…

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Sometimes when the gods wish to punish us, Oscar Wilde quipped, they answer our prayers.

He could have been speaking directly to Spain’s old guard publishers in their fight against Google. The latest target: Google News. The Spanish Association of Daily Newspaper Publishers lobbied hard for a law that would charge services such as Google News for showing one- and two-sentence excerpts from their articles, the snippets that preview what a user is about to click on. The law passed and the fees were supposed to go into effect Jan. 1.

Here’s a lesson for any European lobby or regulator…

What does a search warrant for an email get you? It doesn’t get you an email — an email isn’t a physical object. What it gets you is access to the server where the email “lives.” Does it matter, then, where the server is located? Are some servers, and the emails in them, outside the reach of U.S. law?

Those are the hard questions confronting the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Microsoft Corp.

Most public figures are all outward passion, all backslapping, bear hugs, and (when the occasion calls for it) barely repressed tears. “Cool on the outside” is something Americans rarely see in a politician; less charitable observers look at the same presidential quality and see “aloofness,” “standoffishness,” “arrogance,” and even the great American sin of not being “a people person.”

Sometimes it seems that we don’t know how to process a politician who wears emotions anywhere other than on his sleeve. But we’ve spent the past few years studying and writing on another politician famous for his coolness: Cato the Younger.

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Last year, the Chinese government declared virality a crime.

By order of the Supreme People’s Court, users who post online rumors garnering more than 5,000 visits or 500 reposts could be subject to defamation charges. Yes, that’s right: go viral, and go to jail — for up to three years.

The Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Sina Weibo, was afire with criticism. “It’s far too easy for something to be reposted 500 times or get 5,000 views. Who is going to dare say anything now?” wrote one brave user. …

(This article first appeared in The Washington Examiner. For more, subscribe to their newsletter or follow them on Facebook.)

It began innocently enough: Mario Costeja González, a 58-year old lawyer and calligrapher from northwestern Spain, Googled himself.

Somewhere in the search results, he found something disturbing: an 11-year-old issue of the newspaper La Vanguardia republished online, which contained an unflattering moment from his past. In 1998, La Vanguardia and other papers were ordered to advertise property auctions, the proceeds of which would pay back taxes owed by the owners. On page 23 of the Jan. …

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For a glimpse at what modern government head-scratching looks like, one could do worse than to look at the minutes of the September 5th, 2014, meeting in New Delhi of India’s “Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee.”

The meeting had an ambitious purpose: finding a way to eliminate pornography use in India. This comes as a directive from the Supreme Court of India, in response to a petition about the dangers of pornography. From the petition itself: “Petitioner most respectfully submits that most of the offences committed against women/girls/children are fueled by pornography. … Pornography is like moral cancer that is eating…

Jimmy Soni

Co-Author, A MIND AT PLAY: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age (

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