While getting caught up on news this morning, I came across one of the most amazing projects I have ever seen: The Encyclopedia of Life. You really need to check out the site for yourself (and namely the video on the home page) to get a full sense of what this project is about, but in short, it is an attempt to create a web page for each of the 1.8 million named species on the planet.
As I watched the video this morning, I was dumbfounded by both the boldness of the EOL project, and by how unbelievably important it is. Obviously inspired by Wikipedia (one of my favorite sites), I hope it enjoys the same level of media attention, participation, and collaboration.
I really feel like this is an extraordinary time to be alive, and to be working with computers and information technology. Concepts which were confined to the imaginations of science fiction writers are now becoming a reality. I believe Wikipedia was, at least in part, inspired by the Encyclopedia Galactica from Isaac Asimov’s novel Foundation (ironically, searching for "foundation novel" on Google returns a link to Wikipedia as the first result), and Second Life (another project which I believe will prove to be revolutionary) was obviously inspired by the Metaverse create by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash. Both Wikipedia and Second Life are projects which, at one time, seemed entirely impossible, yet are both now easily accessible and freely available to anyone with a PC and an internet connection.
I can’t write about amazing information organization projects and technologies and not mention Google. I don’t know if Larry Page and Sergey Brin were inspired by any works of science fiction, but searching on Google has always reminded me of Captain Jean-Luc Picard conducting research by talking to the both omnipresent and omnipotent "Computer", especially now that you can interact with Google over the phone. Whether you like Google as a company or not, you can’t deny that they have changed the world with their mission of organizing its information.
I will be keeping a very close eye on the Encyclopedia of Life project, and even contributing where I can.