The name of this site could be misinterpreted as a sign of procrastination.
Scribam, in Latin, is the first-person singular future active indicative of scrībō, which we can translate in English as “I will write” or “I shall write”.
You could say: OK, here’s another middle-aged wannabe writer who’s purchased a brandable domain to start a blog and will never really do it because, like 99% of the aspiring scribes, he won’t take action and will stare at a blinking cursor indefinitely, until inspiration strikes. Or maybe he’ll write the introduction and that will be it. Another false start.
But what if Scrib.am was the promise of a strong commitment, not the BS label of a vague project?
What if today I took the pledge to dedicate the rest of my life to the art of writing?
It would not be too much of a hassle: I love it.
I’m not a doctor, I’m not a physicist, I’m not a lawyer.
I don’t have any advanced skill except a passion for the written word (and its oral rendition), exacerbated by an insatiable curiosity, both a blessing and a curse.
Words for their own sake, thrown randomly on a page, don’t have any particular use, except maybe in the realm of pure poetry. I’d rather employ them to convey some meaning, to share some knowledge.
I’ve decided to embark on an open-ended writing venture, which will consist of regular deep work sessions. I’m craving for a deep dive into an ocean of research, far away from the distracting shores of social media feeds, messaging notifications and email threads. To be honest, I’m just slightly afraid of falling in love with this new occupation.
I’m 48. If I wrote on average 2,000 words per day until the age of 80 - with some breaks along the way - I would be able to produce 20 million words. That’s a lot of words though and I won’t probably be able to subject myself to such discipline.
Interestingly, 20 million words is roughly the size of the Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers published in France by Diderot and d’Alembert between 1751 and 1772. The full 35 volumes contain 20,736,912 words (the full original text in FR is available on Archive.org).
It’s worth noting that The Encyclopédie was originally conceived as a French translation of Ephraim Chambers's Cyclopaedia (published in London in 1728).
Allow me to paraphrase Descartes, who wrote in Discourse on The Method “I think, therefore I am” (Cogito, ergo sum). My version will be: “I write, therefore I am”, Scrib.am.
I’m deeply inspired by Diderot’s own definition of an “encyclopedia”(which I discovered via this documentary, in FR).
Encyclopedia. This word signifies chain of knowledge ; it is composed of the Greek preposition ἐν , in , and the nouns κύκλος , circle , and παιδεία , knowledge .
Indeed, the purpose of an encyclopedia is to collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to the men with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time become more virtuous and happy, and that we should not die without having rendered a service to the human race.
Before I start, it’s important to note that I’m not a native English writer. My first language is French. I started learning English when I was 14. I improved my skills at university (where I graduated as an interpreter EN/RU to FR), then moved to the UK in 2015. So, if you’re a native speaker, bear with me if some of my phrases still carry the stigma of my foreign origins.
What if I wrote my own modest encyclopedia? Not on paper but here, on the web.
I know, it sounds crazy, somewhat overambitious, even pretentious. But truly exciting, isn’t it!
To kickstart this journey, my goal is to write at least one million useful words over the next 2,000 days.
Let’s say that each article of this fledgling encyclopedia will consist of 500 words or less (let’s keep them concise when possible).
That’s 2000 articles to be published before February 20, 2028, on a wide range of topics.
If I feel a bit smarter by the end of this first stretch and if I convince enough readers to follow me in my obsessive quest for knowledge, I’ll keep on writing stuff indefinitely (well, as long as time allows).
The main purpose of this project is simply to transform my scattered notes into a structured knowledge base, firstly for my own satisfaction, then for the broader public.
First, let’s think about the structure of my online encyclopedic project.
Which topics should I address first?
What should be the order of the articles?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an encyclopedia is
a book or set of books containing many articles arranged in alphabetical order that deal either with the whole of human knowledge or with a particular part of it, or a similar set of articles on the internet
So we’ll start with the letter A.
And my first article* will be about AI, Artificial Intelligence.
* There might be further articles filed before the initial one.