Tuesday, February 5, 2008

inevitability of communication

Something that I found particularly compelling about Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” was the subtext of inevitability. Haraway’s discussion of this as the age of the search for common codes presented this idea as something avoidable. Her discussion of this as the moment for the breaking down of boundaries between human, animal, and machine presented this idea as a possible future. In Bush’s essay, the question of finding common codes that would break down these boundaries was presented as inevitable, as something bound to happen due to the inertia of our discoveries and technologies so far. He writes, “The world has arrived at an age of cheap complex devices of great reliability; and something is bound to come of it.”

He also suggests the breaking of boundaries between man and machine as necessary for the sort of “universal code” Haraway described. “Our present languages are not easily adapted to this sort of mechanization, it is true. It is strange [i.e. unnatural or unexpected] that the inventors of universal languages have not seized upon the idea of producing one which better fitted the technique for transmitting recorded speech. Mechanization may yet force the issue, especially in the scientific field...”

Languages, originally an organic and essentially human phenomenon, now require inventors, much like machines. And these languages, because of increasing mechanization, will be (he argues) made increasingly mechanical. (He continues the discussion of human/machine communication towards the end of his article, in which he describes a secretary whose neuron’s action potentials are actually intercepted by a machine and translated. Talk about a universal code.) We must finish what we started.

No comments: