Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"As We May Think"

In reading the Vannevar Bush article, "As We May Think", I was struck by his view on logic in the machine age. The computer was created as a quick means of calculation, replacing mans need for the logical processes needed for solving mathematical equations. Bush states, "Formal logic used to be a keen instrument in the hands of the teacher in his trying of students' souls. It is readily possible to construct a machine which will manipulate premises in accordance with formal logic." He refers to machines as equation solvers and soon to be equation transformers, which by todays standards, they already are. If we continue to rely on technology and machines for logic, man's logical sense and the use of it will begin to diminish.

Making predictions for the future is an incredibly difficult task. Vannevar Bush set high standards, predicting things that have come to be like the credit card and social networking. Thinking ahead 60 years is not in actuality a whole lot of time. If we think back 60 years on major events that have taken place, 1951-2011, most has been machine and technology driven. I think this seems to go in phases.

Technology is currently the main route used to look to the future and to idealize what it could be, but not all the future events will be related to Technology. Man may reach a point where technology is not the most important thing to put all your resources into. A point where many of the things we needed/wanted have been perfected. Obviously, it will continue, but i think in 60 years it will be growing at a much slower pace than it has in the last 60.

In 60 years, I believe scientists and engineers will have perfected the use of robotic or biologically grown organs. These are already used in some cases and experimented with in others. But in all likelihood in 60 years they will be used on a regular basis. Over time this, alone with other medical breakthroughs, would, and have to some extent already, effectively make "survival of the fittest" a moot point. The weak no longer die of illness. The infertile can bear children. The sick and dying will be easily cured and mended.

The other change over the next 60 years that I see as imminent is the use of animals grown for food. According to a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) titled "Livestock's Long Shadow", the livestock industry is degrading land, contributing to the greenhouse effect, polluting water resources, and destroying biodiversity. They call it "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every scale." Outside of the devastating environmental conditions is the growing of human population and space needed to grow more efficient food sources. According to an Ecologist at Cornell, animal protein production requires more than eight times as much fossil-fuel energy than production of plant protein while yielding animal protein that is only 1.4 times more nutritious for humans than the comparable amount of plant protein. With continued population growth and limited land and resources, the livestock industry will inevitably need change.

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