Response 6: Bush and Borges

DUE: October 22, 2013

Focus your sixth response on Vannevar Bush's essay or any of Jorge Luis Borges's stories we read for class. You can choose to base your response on just one of the readings for 10/17 and 10/22, or do a comparative analysis that focuses on two texts alongside each other. Here are a few prompts if you're having trouble getting started:

  • In his essay, Bush writes, almost as a side-thought: "There will always be plenty of things to compute in the detailed affairs of millions of people doing complicated things" (CR 141). The characters in Borges's stories encounter "plenty of things," but for them, the things fail to compute. Could Bush's vision of technology as a supplement to memory have helped any of these characters? For the characters, how does technology get in the way? What contemporary technologies might have helped them, or is that a misguided question to ask?
  • All three of the Borges stories present a struggle with language. The narrators express anxiety about the inadequacy of human words to convey the impossible which (in the world of the story) impossibly exists. Even though the situations described in the story seem incredible and zany, in what ways do they (one or more of the stories) echo your own experiences with memory, inability to forget, the incomprehensible, overwhelming perception, the imprecision of language, or...? Be sure to work closely with passages or specific characters/scenes/examples from the story/stories and analyze your experience as it is reflected in Borges's writing (or vice versa).
  • In sections 4 and 5 of "As We May Think," Bush argues for relegating certain functions to machines and reserving other functions for human beings. While Bush does not discuss the arts explicitly, use your response to discuss the implications of Bush's division of labor for writers of literature. Be sure to tie your discussion to passages in the reading; avoid generalizing a "machine=automated vs. human=creative" distinction apart from analysis of Bush's essay.
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