Nugget Assignment #1 “As We May Think”

“There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers—conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.” (Bush 1)

When reading this nugget from Vannevar Bush’s article “As We May Think” it reminded me of another segment in Bush’s article regarding photocells. This segment made me question how far advances in photocells have traveled. In fact a photocell has been constructed to perform, based on resolution, better than the human eye.  I continued to question why advances have not been linked to treating people with visual disabilities.  Maybe it is because we have not become proficient in both areas of research.


After specializing in the human body and photocell technology, then the bridge can be built between them. In fact the bridge is slowly being built as we speak, since the human eye and cameras share similar properties. These advances are shown here where an electronic retina eye implant has already been performed and also in a more advanced case of a bionic eye!


Although the research is there, specialization in building that bridge takes a longer time to happen. In this case connecting the human body and photocell technology would be the case of research. Before building that bridge specialization in the human body and photocells must be mastered. Indeed specialization is bogging research down because research cannot continue without mastering all the smaller levels leading up to that piece of research. There will always be a new research topic once something is specialized, it never ends. If research were a pyramid then specialization would be the foundation/building block of each level.

12 thoughts on “Nugget Assignment #1 “As We May Think”

  1. Did you watch the BBC demonstration of the man before and after the implant (in your link to the retina eye implant)? Pretty amazing!

    It seems you are saying that technology as a discipline (or specialty) is bogging down the scientific research on eye disorders? That maybe the science can’t progress without the technology?

    What do you mean when you say “research can’t continue without mastering all the criteria leading up to it?” I was a little confused by this.

    You are wondering why research hasn’t advanced more quickly to help people with visual disabilities – and I think this is an interesting thing to wonder about. (Now that you’ve written about it, I wonder too). The BBC report seemed to imply that the man’s brain had to be “trained” to see again — which makes me think that neurology of the brain is involved too. Hmmm…

    • Yes I actually did watch it! I wanted to say, in my writing, to watch the video and read the article but I thought it was too off topic.

      Yes! That is exactly what I was saying but I took a broader approach and addressed the topic so it was more applicable to other examples. I tend to write with really broad examples because I am too afraid of being too specific.

      When I said “research can’t continue without mastering all the criteria leading up to it?” I meant that before you get to more specific areas of research one must master all the basic levels leading up to it.

      Yeah it was really interesting. What I also caught in that video as when a patient said, “I am starting to dream in color.” It came to my attention that these patients don’t even know what color is and they can’t even imagine it in their dreams! Now that this tool gives them a little introduction of sight, they are able to formulate colored dreams.

    • Yeah isn’t that crazy? Your article was really interesting and reminded me of my article. Did you click on the link in my blog post about the electronic retina eye implant? They are similar but I feel the article you found was more up to date.

  2. You make a very interesting point! And honestly I would have never connected photocell with treating people with visual disabilities. One reason could be that I am a total dud with anything related to science.

    But I agree that specialization, whether you are referring to disciplines in humanities and art, science, or administration, is very important to continue advancing society. Specialization is not only needed for the economy (comparative advantage) but the idea that no individual can be the best at two different fields. They always will be better at one than the other. When two specialized individuals come and work together then we can move forward as a society.

    Like psychology and law. I would not expect a lawyer to be a great psychiatrist (and vice versa) but when they work together to pick jurors or trial a domestic violence or custody case, they may be able to find justice.

    • Thank you! I have to relate my writing to something like that because I’m not the most creative writer.

      Yeah exactly. You came up with a great way to look at that as well with the lawyer working with a psychiatrist. I actually wrote an essay last year on a topic like that. It would only benefit a lawyer working with a psychiatrist if the lawyer was fighting for justice. Some lawyers defend their client just for the money.

  3. I think specialization would be the pinnacle rather than the base. You would need the prerequisite information prior to being able to specialize. I think of specialization as a micro-action, in that it takes fine tuning and narrowing down to accomplish.

    If we are able to replace our retina’s with some kind of electronic implant, would this be the first sign that the technology portrayed as science fiction isn’t quite all that far out of our reaches? For whatever reason, the first thing that comes into mind when I thought of the electronic eye were cyborgs and super spies.

    • Well I guess there are different ways to look at that. I looked at it like a pyramid and the peak being the new point of research. Before getting there we must master or specialize in every level leading up to it. I’m sorry that is a bit confusing but I know where you are coming from.

      Yeah that’s interests me! We are indeed getting close to being cyborgs and what not.

  4. I wonder if there could be some adaptations to developing technology like Google Glass to help people with visual disabilities? I know there’s lots of other technology not invented for disabled folks that’s been used as such. There are a ton of iPhone apps to help autistic people communicate or learn, for instance.

  5. Excellent correlation, demonstration and projection for us. In regards to your comment about the photocell technology…I too strongly ponder as why many areas of technology/anatomical improvement are not dug into. Or maybe could we say…given application of energy, funds and more research to begin the human implications on a much larger scale-even as popular as cochlear implants.

    But I am curious…”Indeed specialization is bogging research down because research cannot continue without mastering all the smaller levels leading up to that piece of research. There will always be a new research topic once something is specialized, it never ends. If research were a pyramid then specialization would be the foundation/building block of each level.”
    >>>Could you imagine specialization as a revolving door? We specialize in this one area of biomedical engineering….but once we grasp hold of a technology thorough enough to enhance our day to day lives…it gets thrown into a compartment of the revolver and is ejected on the other side to build….create….mold a newer developing technology? I tried my best to break down your interpretation with a more animated track.

  6. I would have never looked at it that way if you never mentioned it. That is a great way to look at this situation, a revolving door. I guess I never thought of that because I was so focused on making my analogy sound like we were not going in circles. I tried to make it seem like we were getting somewhere with our research, but I totally agree with what you said. Whenever I get my head around a certain concept I always focus on it.

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