I recently quit Facebook. It simply became something I don’t need anymore. It was taking up my time and attention and not providing much value in return. I flipped the switch just after midnight on 1/1/11, but I considered the move for a long time.
One catalyst, however, was the reading and analysis we’ve been doing for our seminar class at DMI. Last semester our focus was on the history of dynamic media–reading mostly philosophers, scientists, and technologists who wrote during the 1950′s, 60′s, and 70′s. They had no idea what was about to happen to the world, but some of them had rather vivid predictions.
One such vision was the Memex, a system of documentation, tracking, and sharing that would enable scientists (having just come out of WWII) to better collaborate on findings. The idea, according to its inventor, Vannevar Bush, was to better mankind by spurring innovation through this improved collaboration. Bush’s Memex (as described in this Atlantic Monthly piece from 1945) was never seen through to mass production (or even much serious prototyping), but the concept that sharing information would better society has stayed consistent. It was what Ted Turner believed in when he started CNN, and it’s what Mark Zuckerberg believes.
But something happened along the way. Bush wrote that
“there will always be plenty of things to compute in the detailed affairs of millions of people doing complicated things.”
But what he was describing was a process of introspection. By the time this charge landed in the laps of guys like Zuckerberg, the process has turned into over-sharing. So where do the two systems (Memex & Facebook) converge? How do they differ?