In reading the Dr. Vannevar Bush article As We May Think, I had fun thinking about the parellels to to the modern day tools as he foresees. Credit cards, speech to text technology, GoPros, PLN’s, even tags! Its as close a guess as anyone could have gotten without a full grasp of the digital.
I also always enjoy getting a quick grounding by science, hearing about how technologies really work(ed). I have spent a lot of time thinking in the conceptual in this course so far, so a reality check that all things digital truly have a back-end formula somewhere is a nice divergence.
The parts of this that stood out to me in my current life ventures however, were the parts that spoke to the future machines being and extension of our memory.
In referring to Man (as a whole):
He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.
These concept bare close relation to recent blog writing advice I received from Alan Levine. I had exposed that I was having mental blocks looking forward in the future as to how and to who my curated writing might be a useful, and received great advice to not think of utility first, but instead as myself as the audience. Write to record.
“when you get months, years away, the details get fuzzy or forgotten. I can use my blog (or my photo stream) to tell you what I was thinking about or where I was doing this for any day going back to 2003. “
Which also connected me to the Cory Doctorow’s My Blog My Outboard Brain in which he admits his blog is so important that…
“Being deprived of my blog right now would be akin to suffering extensive brain-damage. Huge swaths of acquired knowledge would simply vanish…my blog frees me up from having to remember the minutae of my life, storing it for me in handy and contextual form.”
While Bush speaks a lot to retrieval of information in this work, he also hints throughout to the importance of the human curation and contribution to these collections.
Much needs to occur, however, between the collection of data and observations, the extraction of parallel material from the existing record, and the final insertion of new material into the general body of the common record. For mature thought there is no mechanical substitute
I think he is really getting to something here, which is that the true value comes from our process of collection and subsequent addition to the collection. We are experimenting with that ourselves through the very process of writing this very post within this class (so meta right now).
Is our writing (or media sharing) in our domain of our own our true present day Memex?
He doesn’t look forward to just the technology, but also to the future professions we hold:
There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world’s record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected.
I find comfort in the idea that there is a seemingly infinite number of topics and people to make connects with through the web. No matter what your fancy, there is bound to be value in your curation, contribution and resharing. No matter how trivial, even for mere entertainment, your collection is valuable, if even to yourself for record. You can see this in a microlevel with the billions of “10 ways to ….” articles to be found.
Such machines have great appetites…There will always be plenty of things to compute in the detailed affairs of millions of people doing complicated things.
Again, a grounding similar to that in astronomy, by the thought we are all just one small piece of a much larger mechanism, but one that has an infinite appetite for our offerings.