The mind as lens into the future

Vannevar Bush
Originally uploaded by UltimateLibrarian
Vannevar Bush, dean of engineering at M.I.T., in The Atlantic, July 1945:

Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory. It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.

In one end is the stored material. The matter of bulk is well taken care of by improved microfilm. Only a small part of the interior of the memex is devoted to storage, the rest to mechanism. Yet if the user inserted 5000 pages of material a day it would take him hundreds of years to fill the repository, so he can be profligate and enter material freely.

Lead time to another harvest...

I've been arguing on different forums that people got addicted to the late '90s returns on hi-tech innovation, without understanding that they were harvesting the fruits whose seeds were planted for ~45 years (read, investments in fundamental science and such). In a recent exchange on LinkedIn, the following link came up.

Right now, we can see that innovation still goes on in the Military and bio-sciences. Indeed, it's due to the big money spent on these.

From Siprnet to Cablegate: An information system gone wrong

SIPRNet is an acronym that stands for Secret Internet Protocol Router Network. SIPRNet is "a system of interconnected computer networks used by the United States Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of State to transmit classified information (up to and including information classified SECRET) by packet switching over the TCP/IP protocols in a 'completely secure' environment." It came into being in the aftermath of 9/11, as a way to share information easily among the many government employees, with the objective, or hope, that key intelligence no longer gets obscured in information silos or "stovepipes."

SIPRNet is an information system, or a combination of people and technology. The whole Cablegate episode becomes also interesting from the perspective of our confidence in, and expectations from, technology. One should only recall the early rhetoric surrounding internet technology, which probably made its way also to/from the State Department.

Now, we are waiting again for technology to save us from peak-oil.

In all these instances, I ask, where have the investments been? Not in people, it appears...

ideas in motion: covering mirrors