A few people owe as much as Claude Shannon. With 21 years he laid the foundation for electronic circuit design (with Boolean algebra works), with only 32 he created the theory of information and later developed some of the first artificial intelligences.
Today marks one hundred years of his birth and did not want to miss the appointment with the person who taught us to think seriously about information technology.
He born and raised in Michigan. In an interview with IEEE Spectrum Shannon he confessed that as a child his hero was Thomas Edison but what he decided to devote himself to cryptography was something as accidental as lucky one day fell into his hands “The Gold Bug” by Edgar Allan Poe. At bottom, all his work was about it: how to convey messages, avoiding noise and how to preserve what is important.
Zeros and Ones
When Boole published his algebra in 1854 he said that in the ‘0’ and ‘1’ were nowhere and the universe. The first realized that sentence was more than a metaphor was precisely Claude Shannon.
His work Master Thesis (“A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits”) is almost certainly one of the most important in history. In it, Shannon showed that you could use Boolean logic to solve problems implementing it through circuits where lighted switches represented the ‘1’ and switches off, the ‘0’. Today, the potential of binary seems obvious: who saw it was Shannon.
Although the work was motivated by the need for phone to solve a major logistical problem (the size and complexity of the network grew at a faster pace than the humans operators could take) and, in fact, earned him work in the Bell labs, their ideas quickly exceeded those limits.
The creator of information
In 1948, he published “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” the foundational work of information theory. Shannon tried to think about how to convey messages and how to prevent them from becoming garbled amid the noise.
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In the process, he created the formal idea of information, introduced the concept of bit and developed the idea of entropy of information: the proposal that focused on the idea of uncertainty and probability completely changed the way of understanding communication and opened the doors the information and communications technology we have now.
Since 1958 he was a professor at MIT where he performed some of the first developments in artificial intelligence (his work on chess programs defined the area for decades), and if it seemed a little boring, developed statistical methods to play (and win) other games “gambling”. The film 21 Blackjack is inspired by the MIT researchers traveling to Las Vegas was part Shannon.
Alzheimer’s took away one of the brightest minds in technology on 24 February 2001. Few people can claim to have seen her work has revolutionized the world. At least, Claude Shannon was that I get.