Diderot on Information Overload

As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes. When that time comes, a project, until then neglected because the need for it was not felt, will have to be undertaken.

If you will reflect on the state of literary production in those ages before the introduction of printing, you will form a mental picture of a small number of gifted men who are occupied with composing manuscripts and a very numerous body of workmen who are busy transcribing them. If you look ahead to a future age, and consider the state of literature after the printing press, which never rests, has filled huge buildings with books, you will find again a twofold division of labor. Some will not do very much reading, but will instead devote themselves to investigations which will be new, or which they will believe to be new (for if we are even now ignorant of a part of what is contained in so many volumes published in all sorts of languages, they will know still less of what is contained in those same books, augmented as they will be by a hundred—a thousand—times as many more). The others, day laborers incapable of producing anything of their own, will be busy night and day leafing through these books, taking out of them fragments they consider worthy of being collected and preserved. Has not this prediction already begun to be fulfilled? And are not several of our literary men already engaged in reducing all big books to little ones, among which there are still to be found many that are superfluous. Let us assume that their extracts have been competently made, and that these have been arranged in alphabetical order and published in an orderly series of volumes by men of intelligence—you have an encyclopedia!

Thus we have now undertaken, in the interests of learning and for the sake of the human race, a task to which our grandsons would have had to devote themselves; but we have done so under more favorable circumstances, before a superabundance of books should have accumulated to make its execution extremely laborious.


Folksonomies: information overload

/art and entertainment/books and literature (0.545046)
/business and industrial/business operations/management/project management (0.245884)
/technology and computing/consumer electronics/camera and photo equipment/cameras and camcorders/cameras (0.133470)

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Diderot:Person (0.801797 (neutral:0.000000))

Printing press (0.960631): dbpedia | freebase
Printing (0.953213): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Human (0.748370): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Movable type (0.613898): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Book (0.608282): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Johannes Gutenberg (0.583341): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Prediction (0.577550): dbpedia | freebase
Future (0.561060): dbpedia | freebase
Futurology (0.553550): dbpedia
Codex (0.548755): dbpedia | freebase
Literature (0.516443): dbpedia | freebase

Periodicals>Journal Article:  Diderot, Denis (1755), Encyclopédie, Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société‚ de gens de lettres , Retrieved on 2017-05-17
Folksonomies: information information overload