If we do not know them all


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Either we do know all the varieties of beings which people our planet, or we do not. If we do not know them all -— if Nature has still secrets in the deeps for us, nothing is more conformable to reason than to admit the existence of fishes, or cetaceans of other kinds, or even of new species … which an accident of some sort has brought at long intervals to the upper level of the ocean.

—Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1870

Kevin Kelly outlines the history of the All-Species Project and the Encyclopedia of Life. Like Kevin, I see the “all-ist” nature of the project as crucial; the semantic shift from “catalog as many species as possible” to “catalog all life on earth” tips the endeavor from the simply monumental into the sublime.

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