“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.”
I chose this paragraph for my nugget because, although it does not contain anything particularly new or exciting to most of us, it is the basis for the entire article. Vannevar Bush goes on to explain that our ability to record ideas and transfer knowledges through the ages requires us to do three things to fully benefit from this ability: it must be stored, consulted, and extended. The article makes the point that modern science has not kept up with this amazing ability to store seemingly infinite knowledge from the ages with an equal ability to explore and consult that knowledge.
Bush pushes for more mechanized instruments to make this process as capable as possible. Bush explains that mechanisms could be doing much of the work that is now left up to someone like a file clerk, which has not changed much for centuries.
The functions that Bush says should be mechanized are ones that involve logical reasoning, comparable to arithmetic, and other similar functions. This explores the idea of where the split between the realm of technology and the realm of the human mind lies. Presumably there are functions that computers can do much better than humans at last on a mass scale, which we have seen already, and vice versa. I have always thought that this split is already visible within our own brains, something that should fit with Bush’s own thinking since he seems to consider much of human technology to be a sort of reverse engineering of our own biological functions.
Here it is –
It seems to me that the functions of the left brain, the logical, analytical abilities are ones that can be matched and very likely surpassed by technology. Whereas the right brain functions such as creativity, are not nearly as easily mechanized or transferred to computer systems to perform.
However I do think that there is a missing link in the chain of technologies ability to function entirely independent of a human, and that would be adaptability, for lack of a better word. Even now technology only operates according to the programs computer engineers wrote for it. And even if a computer is able to defeat the a chess grandmaster in the game of chess, the computer was engineered by a human. Even more so, the game of chess is limited to a board. There are practically infinite possibilities in the game of chess but there is not much room for something totally unexpected to happen, where there might be in other scenarios.
If a computer is programmed to fulfill a certain function, it might not have within its range of capabilities the ability to consult common sense when things go awry, something that would hardly stand in the way of a human operator.