Comm Lab Web | As We May Think [reaction]

Dr. Vannever Bush’s “As We May Think” was ironically long, as he spoke about the truncating of our materials through the evolution of our technological systems. I read the whole thing in sections, but from six and on, I was locked in. Perhaps it was because I read one to three on the A-train while two very “vocal” men attempted to guilt trip the entire train into donating to their organization. Two human archival preachers, proselytizing on how they started, who was the supervisor, and why we needed to donate money. “Summer is gone, winter is coming” (Yes, I thought of “Game of Thrones & I guess Fall doesn’t count anymore.) Irrespective of the distractions, the paper didn’t really pick for me until section six. So after getting past the length and reading this in my house, I did find some inspirational and insightful “gold” in it!

Originally written on July 1st, 1945, it’s scary how his words still apply to the world around us. Although his hopes for technology and the references are now dated, I couldn’t help thinking “Did he invent the consumer-personal computer?” Simply, he speaks of “responsive design.” Creating machines and technology to cut down our workflow and to simplify our everyday lives through archiving and alleviating our brains of the “minor” things that we can just go back to when we need them. This is juxtaposed with issues of overconsumption and just plain waste. I agree that sometimes it’s great to be able to reference a past moment, because it has a digital archive or perhaps a physical one, but is it always necessary.

“Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing. [the human mind]…It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails…trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature.”

I agree that all of the automation that we are seeking through advances in technology can and will eventually destroy us. Things are moving at a pace that is fueled by our devices and our dependency upon a “bigger, faster, stronger” mantra. Dr. Bush is calling on us to slow down and look at what we have created and why we have created these things. If we as creators and consumers can take a moment to actually utilize the functionality of our gadgets in a positive way, then great! But the problem is we are using so many machines and advanced technology to shorten, archive, and chuck things into digital boxes (or his case, dry photographs & microfilm) that we may just disappear into our machines, and wars, and ourselves without ever looking at what we used to be. I see it has a loss of culture and a jump into homogeneity that could turn us into the very devices that we are constantly grabbing to do our thinking for us…I guess that would make us potential Robots, or run by Robots. Interesting.

[This is also interesting, the “Memex” and drawings of it]

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