AIFF Recommendation: True Genius in “Bit Player”
Written and directed by award-winning director Mark A. Levinson (Particle Fever), The Bit Playerisa an enjoyably comprehensive feature film about American mathematician and “Father of Information Theory,” Claude E. Shannon, and the unparalleled shift he unassumingly created for technology and humanity today.
The fact that you can text a friend for dinner and stream the latest blockbuster while you scan email and post to social media is because of Shannon’s ground-laying work in finding “a universal theory of communication” in the early 20thcentury. With an un-timed, playful mind, gathering bits of information and storing them as he went through life, Shannon’s contribution perhaps wouldn’t have been as substantial had he thought linearly.
In 1948, while working at Bell Labs, Shannon wrote his monumental article “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” the bedrock for the modern information age.
In the film, Henry Markram, founder of Human Brain Project, said it best, “Einstein’s theory of general relativity had an enormous impact on the world and physics. But I think we haven’t even begun to see the kind of impact that Shannon is going to have on society.”
The film is a fun, flowing anthology of dialogue, photographs and interviews of those closest to and inspired by Shannon, not to mention his immeasurable feats in science and technology. With a childlike delight for building things, mostly what he called “useless gadgets,” Shannon’s free-mindedness led to his groundbreaking work in “thinking machines,” as well as early advancements in the application of communication theory combined with biological systems, the harbinger of artificial intelligence (AI).
Even former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, at one point responds, “I often wonder if Claude Shannon understood how muchinformation there would be. Literally, he not only won the lottery, he invented the lottery.”
With his doctoral degree in theoretical particle physics and experience working as an ADR (automatic dialogue replacement) supervisor in films like The Social Network, Talented Mr. Ripley, andThe English Patient,we can appreciate Levinson’s experience and urge to commemorate this overlooked genius behind today’s modern communication.
Plays June 7.