As We May Think | Study Guide

Vannevar Bush

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As We May Think | Main Ideas


Science as a Force for Good

Despite the deadly weapons scientists helped design during World War II, science has largely improved human life. Humans have better food, shelter, health, and communications because of science. Machines allow people to communicate across the world. New computers can perform calculations that would take considerable effort for humans to complete.

Science Is More Than Data

Although machines can now solve complicated equations, humans are still needed. Scientists provide the logic and creativity for using this data. Machines are not capable of human thought. Computers allow scientists to spend less time on calculations and more time on tasks that cannot be done by machines.

The Coming Overload of Information

Bush is concerned with the idea of information overload. During World War II scientific knowledge increased almost endlessly. While progress is good, the volume of information could be completely overwhelming to people working with the data. Information must be usable for it to be of any value. The curation of data could correct this problem.

Problems with Indexing Data

Bush believes that the main problem with data is the deficiencies in indexing systems. Information is filed numerically or alphabetically, yet humans do not think in alphabetical or numerical indexing systems. Humans think in associations. They instantly associate one word, thought, and/or picture with another idea. An indexing system that is similar to human thought is needed to make the data more usable. The memex would be capable of saving user associations and thinking like a human.

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