Tuesday, February 5, 2008

associations, nature, control, thought

The Memex Bush proposes organizes its information through associative links; trails which a user creates in order to facilitate and simplify the organization and access to information. Yet associative indexing is desirable not only because of its efficiency, but also because Bush considers it natural to the human mind. This is unlike hierarchal filing/indexing systems with alien classes and subclasses, based on systems and rules that bush calls “cumbersome,” and “artificial.” Bush proposes that an efficient index system be based on the human thought process, adapting technology so that it imitates nature. In accordance with this is Bush’s idea that machines should imitate the repetition of human thought so that actual humans may move on to creative, mature creation and selection of ideas and information. (Although bush dismisses repetitive thought, it is still undeniably a human process, just one that he would rather not bother with.) So to summarize thus far, Bush believes that machines should operate based on natural human thought processes in order to work better and be easier to use.
Yet Bush’s celebration and propagation of the ‘natural’ in human thought does not quite make sense if you consider the overall purpose of the Memex and essentially all technology/science—to “control the material environment.” (p2) Humans have a desire to control nature with technology, but technology itself imitates the human mind and its ‘natural’ state. This is an interesting paradox in Bush—technology is more efficient (it better contributes to its grand purpose of controlling nature) when it imitates nature.
This is even further complicated by Bush’s remark that “the inventors of universal languages have not seized upon the idea of producing one which better fitted the technique for transmitting and recording speech.” Does this mean that the human mind should adapt for machines as machines should adapt for us? Is Bush implying a simultaneous development of humans and technology, a mutual grafting/mutation that hints to Haraway’s cyborg? Maybe we can talk about this in discussion, but my sense is that Bush overall still views machines and technology as passive and feminine, useful tools that perform repetitive tasks to further the paradoxical human control of nature with nature.

No comments: