Report: Slave and Expert Systems

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  The 19th Century: Machine-Assisted Manufacturing

Eli Whitney's proposal for a simplification and standardization of component parts marked a further milestone in the advance of the automation of work processes. In 1797 he suggested the manufacture of muskets with completely interchangeable parts. As opposed to the older method under which each gun was the individual product of a highly skilled gunsmith and each part hand-fitted, his method permitted large production runs of parts that were readily fitted to other parts without adjustment and could relatively easy be performed by machines.

By the middle of the 19th century the general concepts of division of labor, assembly of standardized parts and machine-assisted manufacture were well established. On both sides of the Atlantic large factories were in operation, which used specialized machines to improve costs, quality and quantity of their products.

browse Report:
Slave and Expert Systems
    Introduction: The Substitution of Human Faculties with Technology: Early Tools
-3   Early Tools and Machines
-2   The 17th Century: The Invention of the First "Computers"
-1   The 18th Century: Powered Machines and the Industrial Revolution
0   The 19th Century: Machine-Assisted Manufacturing
+1   The 19th Century: First Programmable Computing Devices
+2   1913: Henry Ford and the Assembly Line
+3   1940s - Early 1950s: First Generation Computers
1980s: Artificial Intelligence (AI) - From Lab to Life
Automation is concerned with the application of machines to tasks once performed by humans or, increasingly, to tasks that would otherwise be impossible. Although the term mechanization is often used to refer to the simple replacement of human labor by machines, automation generally implies the integration of machines into a self-governing system. Automation has revolutionized those areas in which it has been introduced, and there is scarcely an aspect of modern life that has been unaffected by it. Nearly all industrial installations of automation, and in particular robotics, involve a replacement of human labor by an automated system. Therefore, one of the direct effects of automation in factory operations is the dislocation of human labor from the workplace. The long-term effects of automation on employment and unemployment rates are debatable. Most studies in this area have been controversial and inconclusive. As of the early 1990s, there were fewer than 100,000 robots installed in American factories, compared with a total work force of more than 100 million persons, about 20 million of whom work in factories.