Vannevar Bush 1945 Essay

Vannevar Bush 1945 Essay-52
[…] We seem to be worse off than before — for we can enormously extend the record; yet even in its present bulk we can hardly consult it.

The prime action of use is selection, and here we are halting indeed.

There may be millions of fine thoughts, and the account of the experience on which they are based, all encased within stone walls of acceptable architectural form; but if the scholar can get at only one a week by diligent search, his syntheses are not likely to keep up with the current scene.

(This, bear in mind, despite the fact that 90% of data in the world today was created in the last two years.) Assume a linear ratio of 100 for future use.

Consider film of the same thickness as paper, although thinner film will certainly be usable.

Tim O’Reilly recently admonished that unless we embrace open access over copyright, we’ll never get science policy right.

The sentiment, which I believe applies to more than science, reminded me of an eloquent 1945 essay by engineer and inventor Vannevar Bush (March 11, 1890–June 28, 1974), then-director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, titled “As We May Think” and later included in ).Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing.When data of any sort are placed in storage, they are filed alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by tracing it down from subclass to subclass.[…] Selection, in this broad sense, is a stone adze in the hands of a cabinetmaker.The real heart of the matter of selection, however, goes deeper than a lag in the adoption of mechanisms by libraries, or a lack of development of devices for their use.Selection by association, rather than indexing, may yet be mechanized.One cannot hope thus to equal the speed and flexibility with which the mind follows an associative trail, but it should be possible to beat the mind decisively in regard to the permanence and clarity of the items resurrected from storage.He stresses, as many of us believe today, that mechanization — or, algorithms in the contemporary equivalent — will never be a proper substitute for human judgment and creative thought in the filtration process: 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.In minor ways he may even improve, for his records have relative permanency.The first idea, however, to be drawn from the analogy concerns selection.


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