Technology is our friend!?!?

Ever evolving technogy holds great promise not only for academic historians, but also for society as a whole. The promise of technology to assist historians in their research and published works has never been greater. The ability of technology to assist historians can be seen into two current public history projects. The first the indomitable Richard White’s “Shaping the West” project which examines how railroads created new spatial patterns and experiences in the American West. This project uses a computer program to represent and manipulate maps and graphs.

Another public history project which utilizes technology is currently being implented by Don Alexander Hawkins. The aim of the project is to digitally recreate the capital at various periods in the 18th century. Ultimately a “video game” will be created that will allow the player to take a stroll through Washington during the 1790s.

While technology is helping historians recreate the past the most interesting developments are occuring in the field of cognitive science. While this may not interest public historians, historians of science may find it interesting. New technology will likely unravel the mysteries of human consciousness during my lifetime. One product of this is that the human mind and human consciencness will be able to be objectively studies. The subjective  realm will be destroyed. One project going a long in doing this is at MIT where researches are mapping the human nervous system. Actually its not so much human scientist that are doing this but a computer program that is being developed. Its not as exciting as mapping railroads or old capitals, but it’s still interesting (and might be more important).

Not only are scientist able to increasingly explain thoughts, emotions, intentions, and mental states, they are also increasingly able to manipulate the mind (by manipulating brain activity). The means to destroy selfishness, and ensure peace and equality are no longer an unrealizable dream, they will be achievable through technological advancement. A description of Rebecca Saxe’s work –who is creating what might be termed a physiological theory of mind–follows: “MIT scientists in Rebecca Saxe’s “Saxelab”—officially the Social Cognitivie Neuroscience Laboratory—already had techniques to identify the source of judgments and intentions in the brain. Now they have the power, via magnetic interference, to alter those ideas. Saxe’s earlier studies show a particular section of the brain is highly active when a person thinks about someone’s intentions, thoughts and beliefs. By disrupting activity there—with a magnetic zap applied through a device attached to the scalp—you can alter the process of judgment. Rather then intuition or personal bias, the judger must now rely more on facts and outcomes.”  (;

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