Vannevar Bush’s memex idea is a reaction to the ending of WWII and the role of scientists and the scientific community during that time. This period in history saw a huge advance in scientific research and theory – and one that happened at a highly accelerated pace. The memex is a reflection of these things and is an attempt to catalog and protect the (potentially) infinite amount of information being produced. Although some of the specifics of the memex are lacking when looking back at it from 2013, it’s kind of uncanny how close he came to predicting the digital-based technology environment of today. It’s also interesting how we are still dealing with the same issues of organizing mass quantities of information. Although we have so much new technology at our fingertips, we have yet to discover an ultimate solution to organizing the endless amount information being produced in the world.


This endlessness of information is where Bush’s essay and Jorge Luis Borges’ story are related, in that they are both attempting to find ways to organize it. It is interesting, however, that where Bush’s essay strikes an optimistic tone in exploring new technology as a way to aid the organization of information, Borges’ story takes the idea of the ultimate organizational tool and ends with a more pessimistic interpretation of the process. Indeed, the Library of Babel appears to be a good idea at first, but the reality of the very nature of it sends the librarians on a never-ending (unresolvable?) quest. Readers are left with the experience of an overwhelming and perpetual process of organizing information, an idea that certainly relates to information environments today.


I am so curious to know how people reacted to Bush’s piece when it was first published. I find it pretty amazing that something like this would be printed in a magazine for the general public…  



2 responses to “

  1. I wonder whether there is difference in readership of the Atlantic Monthly between 1940’s and now. Who are its readers?

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