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.


About Jack Stilgoe

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