Memex and the World Brain

I had a review of Michael Nielsen’s fascinating book on open science – Reinventing Discovery – in Saturday’s Guardian. The issues here – how science can benefit from the Web, created by scientists for scientists but grotesquely underused by them – are not new. It was too late to put in, but I was reminded of something Vannevar Bush wrote in 1945, in an astonishing essay that sketched out a plan for the Internet. (HG Wells had done something similar in 1937, but he came up with a better name: The World Brain, against Bush’s Memex). Bush’s aim was to take the scientific momentum generated by the Second World War into peace time, but he saw a major barrier: “our methods of transmitting and reviewing the results of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for their purpose”. It’s taken a while, but the open science movement appears to have found its time. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next five years or so.

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About Jack Stilgoe

Jack Stilgoe is a lecturer in science policy at the department of Science and Technology Studies, University College London.
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