Thursday, April 23, 2009

Memex and the beginning of the Internet (Tower of Babel)

I stumbled on this article "As We May Think" written in 1945 and credited with the beginning ideas about hypertext and the Internet.

It is amazing... here are some of my favorite quotes. The concluding remarks are the best part...

Science has provided the swiftest communication between individuals; it has provided a record of ideas and has enabled man to manipulate and to make extracts from that record so that knowledge evolves and endures throughout the life of a race rather than that of an individual.

There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers—conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.

A record if it is to be useful to science, must be continuously extended, it must be stored, and above all it must be consulted

This is a much larger matter than merely the extraction of data for the purposes of scientific research; it involves the entire process by which man profits by his inheritance of acquired knowledge.

The human mind...operates by association.

Selection by association, rather than indexing, may yet be mechanized.

Presumably man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.

Remember this was in 1945; amazing; and we have only scratched the surface of the empowerment that comes with the existence of the memex/Internet. Man's spirit with definitely "be elevated" as he "analyze[s] more completely and objectively".

1 comment:

David Andre said...

Thanks for this. My thinking will forever be changed for your having introduced me to the memex.