While surfing the Getty Research Institute's Metadata resources (which is a great resource for information standards), I ran across this quote from Vannevar Bush's profoundly influential article "As We May Think" (which influenced Ted Nelson's Xanadu, which influenced Tim Berners-Lee's World Wide Web):
Presumably man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his record more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursion may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting manifold things he does not need to have immediately to hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important. [emphasis added]
Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think", The Atlantic Monthly, July 1945.
I love this quote because it reminds me of my favorite quote about the importance of good notation:
By relieving the brain of all unnecessary work, a good notation sets it free to concentrate on more advanced problems, and, in effect, increases the mental power of the race. Before the introduction of the Arabic notation, multiplication was difficult, and the division even of integers called into play the highest mathematical faculties. Probably nothing in the modern world would have more astonished a Greek mathematician than to learn that ... a large proportion of the population of Western Europe could perform the operation of division for the largest numbers. This fact would have seemed to him a sheer impossibility ... Our modern power of easy reckoning with decimal fractions is the almost miraculous result of the gradual discovery of a perfect notation. [...] By the aid of symbolism, we can make transitions in reasoning almost mechanically, by the eye, which otherwise would call into play the higher faculties of the brain. [...] It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilisation advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle -- they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments. [emphasis added]
Alfred North Whitehead, An Introduction to Mathematics, 1911
So Vannevar its talking about enabling humanity to simplify thought by minimizing what must be remembered, and Whitehead is talking about simplifying thought by minimizing the operations we can do without conscious thought. Both desires presage the computer's ability to augment human thought by carrying out mental operations, including memory, for us.