Bit Player

Cameo Cinema St Helena, CA


Andrea Goldsmith

Professor of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University


Mark Levinson

Writer, director, and producer of THE BIT PLAYER

The Bit Player— The legacy of Claude Shannon

After the film, director Mark Levinson and electrical engineering expert Andrea Goldsmith, discuss the life and impact of Claude Shannon, inventor of the "bit" and, in Levinson's words, "prophet of information."

Cameo Cinema St Helena, CA

Film Synopsis

A film about Claude Shannon, father of information theory: a playful genius whose name is largely unknown though his work revolutionized nearly every aspect of modern life.

In a blockbuster paper in 1948, Claude Shannon introduced the notion of a "bit" and laid the foundation for the information age. His ideas ripple through nearly every aspect of modern life, influencing such diverse fields as communication, computing, cryptography, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, cosmology, linguistics, and genetics. But when interviewed in the 1980s, Shannon was more interested in showing off the gadgets he’d constructed — juggling robots, a Rubik’s Cube solving machine, a wearable computer to win at roulette, a unicycle without pedals, a flame-throwing trumpet — than rehashing the past. Mixing contemporary interviews, archival film, animation and dialogue drawn from interviews conducted with Shannon himself, THE BIT PLAYER tells the story of an overlooked genius who revolutionized the world, but never lost his childlike curiosity.

About the Speaker

Andrea Goldsmith has supervised the Ph.D. theses of 24 doctoral students and 20 postdoctoral scholars at Stanford. Dr. Goldsmith has served as PI or co-PI on government research grants totaling more than seventy million dollars and has over 180 journal papers published or in press, two of which have won best paper awards. Andrea's publications have been cited over 60,000 times in Google Scholar with an h-index of 88 and she is in the category of “Highest Cited Authors” in Thompson’s ISI citation index by “ranking among the top 1% most cited for their subject field and year of publication."

Before embarking on a film career, Mark Levinson earned a PhD in particle physics from the University of California at Berkeley. In the film world, he became a specialist in the post-production writing and recording of dialogue known as ADR, working on such films as The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain, Seven, The Rainmaker, and The Social Network. He is the writer/producer/director of the fiction film Prisoner of Time, about former Russian dissident artists after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He directed and produced the award-winning documentary feature Particle Fever, about the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider experiment outside of Geneva. He is currently adapting Richard Powers’s acclaimed novel, “The Gold Bug Variations.”