Diderot on Information Overload, and the Encyclopedia as a Means of Organizing and Enhancing Associations in Knowledge (1755)


In 1755 French writer and philosopher Denis DiderotOffsite Link published in the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société‚ de gens de lettres an article entitled Encyclopédie. In that he explained that a primary reason for undertaking this enormous writing and publishing project was to manage information overload by providing a rational and comprehensible order to what was already an almost impossibly large and disorganized body of information.

I preface my remarks About the Database with a brief quotation from Diderot’s article. Equally relevant is this somewhat longer quotation, which places Diderot’s partially self-deprecating thoughts in better context: