Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Man and Machine

In the article, “As We May Think,” Vannevar Bush emphasizes the need for a machine and operating system that will augment the human capacity to cope with an overload of data and information. Written in July 1945, Bush envisions a world in which biology and technology blur: a world in which humans become more machine-like and machines more human. For example, he writes: “In the outside world, all forms of intelligence whether of sound or sight, have been reduced to the form of varying currents in an electric circuit in order that they may be transmitted. Inside the human frame exactly the same sort of process occurs. Must we always transform to mechanical movements in order to proceed from one electrical phenomenon to another?” (Bush, 12).

This question is still relevant today, and in some ways, even more so. Let’s examine the process of navigating the Internet, otherwise known as ‘surfing the Web.’ This particular cliché expression implies a kind of carefree voyage of discovery; with just a simple click of the mouse, we are able to explore an infinite amount of pathways in cyberspace. We can communicate and share information and services with the entire Internet community. “There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record” (Bush, 11). The Internet allows us to operate naturally – by association. Search engines encourage us to probe deeper into the digital media realm. Hyperlinks engage our attention, following our train of thought through the maze of materials available. We are both man and machine, inextricably linked, working together to understand and harness our ever-expanding civilization and its records.

No comments: