We spent 5 years studying Claude Shannon—”the father of the information age” or, the reason you can read the words on this screen. The experience gave us great insights into how a genius thinks, works, and lives. AUA!
Hi Reddit, we're Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni. We're authors and speechwriters. We've written both separately and together for a long while, and we've finished a couple books in tandem. We met at Duke, where we were both on the debate team and wrote for The Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper. Rob is currently a PhD candidate at Columbia University in political theory. Before beginning graduate study at Columbia, Rob worked as speechwriter for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Sen. Chris Dodd. Jimmy is an editor-at-large at the New York Observer, a partner at Brass Check, and has worked as a speechwriter for Governor Eric Greitens of Missouri.
After five years of research, we just wrote the first-ever biography of the mathematician and engineer Claude Shannon—A Mind At Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. We described him recently as roughly a cross between Albert Einstein and the Dos Equis guy. That's not too far off the mark: Shannon was regularly compared to Einstein in the sheer brainpower he had. But he wasn't just a good theoretical thinker. He was a builder and a tinkerer. He spent the better part of the last phase of his life in a two-story "toy room" that he outfitted so that he could build contraptions of all kinds. He built one of the world's earliest chess-playing computers, a mouse that could solve a maze (an early example of artificial intelligence), and co-made the world's first wearable device (a machine to get better odds at roulette). And he actually went to Vegas and tested it!
UPDATE: This has been tons of fun everyone. We joke that we've basically been waiting to share these stories with someone other than our families for five years. We're going to keep answering questions throughout the night!