Wednesday, February 10, 2010

As We May Think and Ted Nelson. Future Technologies

I found Monica’s post (below) to be interesting and it struck a chord with me. I would like to expand upon her thoughts and add some questions of my own. In Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think,” I found it interesting how many (if not all) of the technologies that he spoke of, we have acquired. As I read the article, I was struck by how primitive I thought many of his imagined technologies are. For example, the entire description of the “great department store” was astonishing to me. It seemed like such a complicated process that people had to go through before the digital age. Now, it never even crosses my mind all of the things that happen when I swipe my card at the department store.

Since all of Bush’s imagined technologies are so commonplace, it truly makes me wonder, what will our civilization acquire in the next fifty years? Monica included a quote from Bush explaining how scientists will never be satisfied, and she brought up the question, will we ever produce the ultimate machine? As science progresses, will we ever create the “perfect” machine? I think that reading Bush’s piece from a modern-day perspective helps to answer these questions.

Many of our technological imaginations today-such as nanotechnology, space tourism, artificial intelligence, alternatively powered cars and alternative energy- may very well be commonplace fifty years in the future. If our society progresses as it has since World War II, around the time that Bush wrote this article, I would not be surprised if all of these technologies were cheap and readily available. I found it very interesting to read this article along with Ted Nelson’s due to the fact that it shows the vast majority of visions of what we know today as the World Wide Web. Nelson brings a much more complicated and more thought-out vision of storage possibility than Bush does. His idea for an ELF seems much more similar to our computing systems than Bush’s does. Today, we have many ideas and visions of futuristic technology. Of all of our visions, what will be the next new media or technology? Will it be, as Monica suggests, the “perfect machine?” Or can we not replicate the human brain (per artificial intelligence)?

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