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Response: Bush

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The article, As We May Think, by Dr. Vannevar Bush, is a very prosaic essay published in 1945 by The Atlantic magazine. The essay goes into great depth about the ongoing advancements in science and technology in Bush’s current climate, discussing various technological achievements, useful advances in technological fields, and all with a particular emphasis on the future: where further research and application of these achievements will take people.

The article is very dated, with many of the advancements being discussed are the ideas of mechanized stenographer machines, and high-aperture cameras. But the real, inherent question at the bottom of this essay is how can scientific theories and ideas be applied to more practical, civil purposes outside the realm of the war room. The discussion focuses in on the idea of making logical thinking with machines more practical and accessible to the average person. Bush compares and contrasts differing forms of logical thinking, whether with the human mind or with mechanical devices (like the abacus). Bush furthermore discusses the faculties of the human mind, and how it thinks. He speaks of thoughts connecting from one to the next in a more fluid motion than logical, mechanical thought usually allows. He proposes that the advancement of data use and calculation must also incorporate this connective form of thinking, as well as the connected forms of logicizing material.

This article is incontrovertibly dated, completely predating our conception of the modern day computer, and thus a very strange article in the terms of our class. However, this stark contrast to our present-day climate of technological freedom brings us to the discussion of what is, and what will be, in the same way that Bush was addressing it.

Wikipedia presents a prime example of many of the ideas Bush was discussing. Firstly, the liberation of specific information to the public. This is a core belief behind the inception of Wikipedia, and is told to be a major necessity in the future in Bush’s era. We now have liberated information. Wikipedia no longer assumes the restrictive system set in place by the educational elite: people who had knowledge, and sold it to the public, restricting knowledge to only those who could afford to pay for it. Wikipedia provides the same information completely for free, and allows anyone with knowledge to become a content creator. Furthermore, this information is dumbed down to the average reader, allowing everyone to be on an equal playing field. Because of the way these articles are edited on Wikipedia, it also gives reign to logical thought, as the articles must be unbiased and entirely objective before they’re accepted onto the site.

Another example – which somewhat expands away from Wikipedia, as well – is the concept of hypertext and links that go to related material. In-site hypertext is used on Wikipedia very frequently, allowing fluid mobility to content throughout Wikipedia; if you don’t understand one topic only briefly touched on in one article, but it links to another, you can read both, and approach both from an informed, objective standpoint. This hearkens back to Bush’s thought of one thought leading to the next. At times, when we are acquiring knowledge – whether for the purpose of learning or leisure – we want to learn more related material to the topic at hand. In example, here is an article I created on the Near Southside neighbourhood of Fort Worth.

For those who don’t know much about the Near Southside, the article offers a very objective view of the area. During the article, various famous restaurants in the neighbourhood are spoken about, such as Spiral Diner. If you wanted to learn more about this particular restaurant, or any other location in the Near Southside because you thought it was important, you could simply click the link, and be redirected to related material. These related materials then have more linked content, which directs you further in a logical yet related form of thinking, such as Bush pondered.

The final thought that was explored by Bush is the concept of machines becoming more “human-friendly,” to summarize. Bush discusses various instances of machines being clumsy and tedious, such as the printing process of writing, typesetting, etc. This issue, since the days of the 40s, has also been advanced light-years ahead of its ancestral beginnings in technology. With the word processor and personal printers on computers, the old concepts of manual typesetting are all but a distant memory.  And with the functionality of word processor, even the editing process has been digitized, allowing writers to get the exact document they want on the first draft, instead of dealing with typos with all the old-styled rigamarole of fixing one error with an entirely newly typed draft. In a sense, Bush – in this article – was exploring what the future was due to be with advancements in his contemporary age, leaving us in our own contemporary age to dream of what we can do to advance our connection and accessibility of knowledge and technology for our future.


Written by Chris Fox

16 October, 2011 at 15:34

Posted in assignment

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