Bit Player

Amherst Cinema Amherst, MA


Lee Spector

Professor of Computer Science, Hampshire College; Editor-in-Chief, Genetic Programming and Evolvable Machines

The Bit Player— [ONLINE] The world-changing thinking of Claude Shannon

Computer science professor Lee Spector discusses the profound influence Claude Shannon's thinking has on our understanding of life and the universe, and how his unconventional thinking allows us to make computers out of objects like marbles and dominoes, water pipes, and lasers.

Presented as part of the 2021 National Evening of Science on Screen.

Amherst Cinema Amherst, MA

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

Lee Spector teaches and conducts research in artificial intelligence and intersections of computer science with cognitive science, physics, evolutionary biology, and the arts. He is a Professor of Computer Science at Hampshire College, Visiting Professor of Computer Science at Amherst College, Adjunct Professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Genetic Programming and Evolvable Machines.

Professor Spector received a B.A. in Philosophy from Oberlin College, a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, College Park, and the highest honor bestowed by the National Science Foundation for excellence in both teaching and research, the NSF Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars. In 2015, Professor Spector presented an Amherst Cinema Science on Screen talk to accompany a screening of BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT.