The Code Book

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Simon Singh is a British theoretical physicist and writer. He holds a PhD in particle physics from the University of Cambridge and founded the non-profit organization The Good Thinking in 2012. Singh worked at the CERN in Geneva before returning to England to join the BBC's Science and Features department. He has produced several documentaries and written several well-known books such as Fermat's Last Theorem (1997) and The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (2013). The Code Book was first published in 1999 and provides a chronology of the history of cryptography and deciphering/breaking codes. Early on, ancient cultures grasped the importance of secret communication to preserve notes from prying eyes. The primary idea was not to hide the information as much as to make the report confidential to the ones it was not intended for. Over time, cryptography -which was the encryption process to convert plain text into cipher- was combined with steganography -which is a technique to conceal the notice in a different message. This would make the decryption even more intricate. I am not going to tell you more. Whether you are into solving puzzles, fascinated by ancient stories and the dramatic impact of decipherment on not only wars, but also nations and individuals, or you are simply a nerd about privacy in our current days, this book is definitely one to explore! The recounting is smooth and enjoyable. Because the author is not just narrating the evolution of codes. He is also showcasing their relevance in our present day.

Have you ever considered all the ways we are spied on with our personal data, which is supposedly private, being accessible by third parties that track us day and night? Our phones for example follow our physical and digital journeys, and they literally snoop on where we have been and what we think. Did you notice how, shortly after you have spoken to a friend or anyone about a specific topic, something related thereto starts popping up in the pages advertised on your feeds across all platforms you use online? You might think algorithms are harmless and related to marketing customized products and services tailored to the desires of each. It is however a tad more serious. True, it is convenient to be served options based on previous behavior. It becomes less humorous when your file is stored God knows where and is being used for God knows what purpose(s). It is undeniably appalling when medical history is rendered public and financial records are peeped on by government officials. Beware, because I can assure you that you won't be smiling or dismissing this idea as a conspiracy when an authority, other than your own, accesses your dossier to allow or limit how and when you can make use of your money and purchased items, and thus takes control over your movements, your expenses, and models the way you ought to think and behave...

Happy reading 📚

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