I chose the concluding paragraph for my nugget:
The applications of science have built man a well-supplied house, and are teaching him to live healthily therein. They have enabled him to throw masses of people against one another with cruel weapons. They may yet allow him truly to encompass the great record and to grow in the wisdom of race experience. He may perish in conflict before he learns to wield that record for his true good. Yet, in the application of science to the needs and desires of man, it would seem to be a singularly unfortunate stage at which to terminate the process, or to lose hope as to the outcome.
The first thing that came to my mind as I finished Vannevar Bush’s essay was this great snippet from Cosmos, which was originally narrated by Carl Sagan back in the 80s and was recently redone and presented by Neil Degrasse Tyson:
I think Bush’s essay reminded me of Cosmos because one of the recurrent themes in the show (the new version, that is), are the consequences of and products of creative and original minds from the past into our lives today. During the episodes viewers come to understand how our world today came to be, not just from an evolutionary perspective but also from a scientific one. If we think about it, our exploration of the actual cosmos started only 12 years after Bush wrote this piece, when the Soviets sent Sputnik 1 into space.
Would space exploration had been possible without scientists collaborating and sharing knowledge? Probably not. Yes, I’m sure the Soviet scientists did not share their research (at least not knowingly) with the American ones, but they probably still had to work as a team to send something into space. Today several countries are part of the International Space Station Program, which brings astronauts and scientists together working towards a common goal of expanding our species’ common knowledge about space. Vannevar Bush would certainly approve!
Another part of my nugget that reminded me of Cosmos was this one: He may perish in conflict before he learns to wield that record for his true good. The reason this particular piece resonated with me is because it got me thinking of all the research we have accumulated in the last few years about global warming, which unavoidably shows we are headed towards disaster pretty soon. And yet there are quite a few people (and some scary politicians) who say global warming is a hoax, that our planet is just showing normal levels of temperature fluctuation, that carbon emissions really aren’t that bad, yadda yadda yadda.
What use is all this research and knowledge when some still refuse to believe in it? It saddens me to think that, just as you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink, we can expand our human knowledge as much as we want, but it is up to individuals to be interested in it. Unfortunately, Vannevar Bush might have been mistaken to think that just making knowledge available would be enough to make us “grow in the wisdom.” I’ll finish with this last passage of Cosmos just in case someone who’s reading my post needs a little more convincing: