Life Is Free, Information Is Not: Artificial Intelligence (AI) a Result of Shannon's Machine Information Theory (MIT) Has Disrupted Civilization, ... with the Human - Book Review

Life Is Free, Information Is Not: Artificial Intelligence (AI) a Result of Shannon's Machine Information Theory (MIT) Has Disrupted Civilization, ... with the Human

Author: Francis Hsu
Genre: Non Fiction - Historical/Cultural
Date Published: November 1, 2017
ISBN-10: 0998592005
ISBN-13: 9780998592008

Book Review of :  Life Is Free, Information Is Not: Artificial Intelligence (AI) a Result of Shannon's Machine Information Theory (MIT) Has Disrupted Civilization, ... with the Human


Life is Free, Information is Not (LIFIIN) by Francis Hsu is a fascinating examination of a subject that represents, defines, records, and explains our very existence, we call it “information.”  What is information? What is its value?  Hsu postulates that the most important purpose of information is that it stores “meaning.”  He cautions us that this then exposes us to the philosophical issue of what is “meaning.” Hsu delves deep into the history of man and its evolvement with information. He gives an introduction to Claude Shannon’s Machine Information Theory (MIT) of 1948 which defined the quantification, storage, and communication of information. In this introduction, Hsu details its significance to our world.  The Machine Information theory is the foundation of the computer information age. The theory has had a phenomenal impact on our lives in the last 70 years or so; it has helped usher in inventions and knowledge that were unimaginable just decades ago. He brings up the question of why in the roughly 5,000 years of man’s ability to write in some fashion we have not defined a Human Information Theory.

Hsu presents his arguments and supporting material in an appealing manner, making a hard subject accessible, interesting and intuitive to the reader. He provides a multitude of arguments to support his belief that it’s imperative that we have a Human Information Theory (HIT).   His excellent prose (simple and succinct) with informative diagrams and the book’s exceptional organization show that the author is indeed an expert on the topic.

The book is full of historical events and people that serve as examples in his explanations.  He manages to bring to life the immense practical outcomes of his theoretical ideas while maintaining the rigor and formalism that the subject warrants. The book has a lot of information packed into it, and can serve as a reference book for students interested in this fascinating subject.

Hsu states that the goal of his book is to provoke thinking about information and to identify some principles to help establish the Human Information Theory (HIT). He introduces us to a world that has over seven thousand languages that all need to be able to possess the ability to define words or ways that communicate the same universal meaning for things and actions.  He talks about that the same meaning can be expressed in so many different languages shows information’s “freedom of meaning,”  and that meaning has more constancy and longevity than the symbols we use to represent them.

Hsu states there are three boundaries that all humans share; at birth, you come from nothing, then there is existence (life) and then the question of meaning.  To be or not to be – William Shakespeare, I think therefore I am  -- Rene Descartes. And that is what  Life is Free, Information is Not (LIFIIN) is about, the third boundary, “meaning.”  In general, this is a superb book that makes the connection of theory and practice into something vivid and compelling. Francis Hsu brings us closer to the ultimate secrets at the very heart of the meaning of information.

About Francis Hsu

I have lived, laughed, loved and died (a little) on five continents and three oceans.


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