I just read through the article that was set for us to read several weeks ago, As We May Think, by Dr. Vannevar Bush.
I thought the article was quite interesting, especially as it showed what a visionary Bush was, and what he was able to suspect might be possible in the future. Especially his comments on the technology of photography, and about the possibility of, “dry photography”. As he suspected, “often it would be advantageous to be able to snap the camera and look at the picture immediately”. This is digital photography. And we must not forget that he wrote the article in July of 1945, close to 70 years ago.
Another part that I thought was important was his foresight to notice the possibility of information overload, and that the point would arrive where the content being created was greater than that which was possible to consume. He used the example of Mendel, whose discovery of the laws of genetics, which was lost for a generation as it was not read by the few people who could put his thought into practice and make the discovery public. This is now an even greater concern following the advent of the Internet. What if the key to curing the AIDS virus was stored away on a hard drive in a university somewhere, unread and unappreciated. The idea reminds me of this passage from a letter by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French author and aviator. (I also find it interesting that Bush published his article only 13 months after the premature death of Saint-Exupery. The fear of too much information was a common worry in those years.)
“I prefer the sale of a hundred copies of a book I don’t have to blush for to the sale of six million copies of a bad book. This is justified egoism, because the hundred copies will carry much greater weight than the six million ever could. The belief in number is one of the fallacies of the age. It is the most select journals that are the most illuminating; the ‘Discourse on Method’, even if it had no more than twenty-five readers in the seventeenth century, would nevertheless have changed the world. ‘Paris-Soir’ with its yearly tons of paper and it’s two million readers has never changed anything.”
Does anything we write have any weight anymore? Is what we are writing pushing the human race forward, or even having any positive or constructive influence on the world around us?
It is also the only ethic that worries me about this subject. The notion of being a content producer. For who is to say that I am only adding to the clutter and chaos of information on the internet by writing here? Does the fact that I can publish my own content mean that I necessarily should? What is really more valuable to be found here than in the angsty ramblings of a 13 year old girl with a Tumblr account? Who am I, really, to say anything?