Informatica—the updated edition of Alex Wright's previously published Glut—continues the journey through the history of the information age to show how information systems emerge. Today's "information explosion" may seem like a modern phenomenon, but we are not the first generation—or even the first species—to wrestle with the problem of information overload. Long before the advent of computers, human beings were collecting, storing, and organizing information: from Ice Age taxonomies to Sumerian archives, Greek libraries to Christian monasteries.
Wright weaves a narrative that connects such seemingly far-flung topics as insect colonies, Stone Age jewelry, medieval monasteries, Renaissance encyclopedias, early computer networks, and the World Wide Web. He suggests that the future of the information age may lie deep in our cultural past.
We stand at a precipice struggling to cope with a tsunami of data. Wright provides some much-needed historical perspective. We can understand the predicament of information overload not just as the result of technological change but as the latest chapter in an ancient story that we are only beginning to understand.
Alex Wright is a writer, designer, and researcher whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, and elsewhere. He is the author of Cataloging the World.