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World Brain

In 1938, aged 72, English writer H. G. Wells published a little book of essays and speeches titled World Brain.

One essay titled "The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia" is remarkable in presenting a vision very similar to Wikipedia. This essay first appeared in the new Encyclopédie Française, August, 1937.

The essay "The Brain Organization of the Modern World" lays out Wells' vision for "...a sort of mental clearing house for the mind, a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared." (p. 49) Wells felt that technological advances such as microfilm could be utilized towards this end so that "any student, in any part of the world, will be able to sit with his projector in his own study at his or her convenience to examine any book, any document, in an exact replica." (p. 54)

Wells had been involved with the socialist Fabian Society, the League of Nations, and the International P.E.N., and his intent for World Brain was no less than helping to solve what he termed the World Problem, i.e. the possibility of the mutual destruction of nations in a World War. Wells has been both praised for envisioning an educational knowledge network (not unlike the Internet and World Wide Web) and criticized for proposing what to some amounts to a New World Order.

See also: encyclopedia, history of Internet encyclopedia projects