I Am in Love with Vannevar Bush’s “As We Think”

Originally published in September 1945, this article outlines at the end of World War II a better option for the coalescing behaviors of scientific advancements for military technological progression. We have enough ways to kill each other. I am not a strict pacifist, but I can see much better and much less destructive ways of using technology other than the putrid battlefields in lands that need more harmony and less conflict. Instead of fighting, find better ways of increasing the food supply and making people self-reliant while keeping status.

Improving education is crucial and critical. Continuing education is of vital importance, and it is out of reach for most people. Education and class distinctions stratify themselves into spheres where intelligence restricts itself to bubble mentalities and monetary gains appear the only end for the successful scholar. This is not the end-result with all fields. However, the viewpoint where the greater fiscal ability one has, the more successful one is, is the result of a society based on a viewpoint where power and sway are commodities instead of a society based upon dignity and self-worth.

True education fulfills aims where character increases at the same time or within reach of knowledge. Knowledge without positive character is dangerous and deadly.

The aims of education are more easily realized when the information needed is accessible rapidly and reliably. Bush’s article postures that the fastest way of making many microfilm records (the current technology of the time, first invented in 1938) accessible was a full desk device called a Memex. He envisioned punch cards, Big Blue, programmers, I-Pads, data storage, Chrome, and other things needing realization in full productivity as the associative indexing possibilities are more keyword-searchable than OCR’d records and hyperlinks.

While I thought that the inventions of my childhood and young adulthood were miraculous circumstances by geniuses, they were actually old news realized. Bush was the genius. Inventors after him simply sought to catch up. It took sixty-seven years (an average entire lifetime) for his ideas to become realities. Other thoughts from the dreamers of the 1950’s (cars that can fly, kitchens that do everything for a user) are yet to materialize and are more likely located at Innoventions at Disneyland in the future than installed and practiced soon in typical households.

What I love about Bush is his ability of concrete conceptuality. Basing his ideas on 1945 technology, he saw a future that still has not become commonplace even as many of his ideas are now functional and are the basis of my historical technology studies.


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