Claude Shannon Redux

Recently, I wrote about the IEEE Spectrum’s article on Claude Shannon by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman. If you haven’t already read their article, I urge you to do so. Shannon was a fascinating man and a genius virtually unknown outside the tech community.

Over at The Mission, Soni and Goodman have another article that’s also in support of their book on Shannon. This article focuses more on Shannon’s genius and some of the things that the authors learned from their study of him. In particular, they list 12 lessons or strategies that Shannon used to organize his research and focus his genius on the problems he was interested in solving. These included such things as “Time is the soil in which great ideas grow” and “Fancy is easy. Simple is hard.”

The lesson I took away from the article, although it wasn’t explicitly called out, was to husband your time. Shannon would famously throw letters that he didn’t want to deal with into a “procrastination bin” from which they never emerged. He didn’t waste time on anything that didn’t interest him. He didn’t bother trying to sell or argue for his ideas. If someone didn’t believe in them, he ignored that person.

Many or most technical people are not history buffs—I know that’s true of me—but there’s something about Shannon that resonates. Do yourself a favor and read these two articles. I’m certain you’ll be glad you did.


Soni and Goodman have a third article that discusses Shannon’s wife, Betty Moore Shannon, whom they describe as his most important collaborator and a topnotch intellect in her own right. If you enjoyed the first two articles on Shannon, you’ll like this one too.

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