Today, I searched in myself to find out about thinking. What I found was what I already knew. Lots of associative trails!
It seems that our brains are repositories of all kinds of data, a lot input from our senses over the course of our lives and a lot created by what we might call imagination. And, as Vannevar Bush alludes, the organization is not alphabetical, or time order, but associational. One thought leads to another…
Dr. C, in his recently posted video, says that he finds the first word of the last paragraph of “As We May Think” to be significant; so significant he has memorized it. Ok, I’m always up for a search challenge. Turns out that the Life Magazine version that I was reading is a condensation, and the word is “Man.” When I found the version currently available from The Atlantic, I found a strange thing: “Man” had been inserted by the Life editors, to replace “He”, which was actually in the middle of the penultimate paragraph.
So, what is the great word that Dr. C loves so much? Well, it appears to be the word “The”, as in “The applications of science have built man a well-supplied house…” [I suspect that Dr. C really means some other word.]
Now, for my associations. Once I saw “The” as the word, my first thought was the ending of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, the last phrase being “along the” to lead back to the opening of “riverrun past Eve and Adam’s.” Why did my mind jump to that association? Maybe because of the year I spent reading the Wake, making suitable annotations, looking up references, etc. Even before Ted Nelson coined the word hypertext, Joyce was up to something similar out of his own mind.
What does this all mean? When I think, I relate new data to old, new ideas to others that are embedded somewhere and indexed associatively. Chances are pretty good you didn’t associate “the” with Finnegans Wake, but you might have. Now you will!