Report: Slave and Expert Systems

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  The 18th Century: Powered Machines and the Industrial Revolution

The invention of the steam engine by James Watt in 1776 represented a major advance in the development of powered machines. It was first applied to an industrial operation - the spinning of cotton - in 1785. A new kind of work-slave it not only marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, but also the coming age of mass production.

In the England of the 18th century five important inventions in the textile industry advanced the automation of work processes. 1) John Kay's flying shuttle in 1733 , which permitted the weaving of larger widths of cloth and significantly increased weaving speed, 2) Edmund Cartwright's power loom in 1785, which increased weaving speed still further, 3) James Hargreaves' spinning jenny in 1764, 4) Richard Arkwright's water frame and 5) Samuel Crompton's spinning mule in 1779, whereby the last three inventions improved the speed and quality of thread-spinning operations. Those developments, combined with the invention of the steam engine, in short time led to the creation of new machine-slaves and the mechanization of the production of most major goods, such as iron, paper, leather, glass and bricks.

Large-scale machine production was soon applied in many manufacturing sectors and resulted in a reduction of production costs. Yet the widespread use of the novel work-slaves also led to new demands concerning the work force's qualifications. The utilization of machines enabled a differentiated kind of division of labor and eventuated in a (further) specialization of skills. While before many goods were produced by skilled craftsmen the use of modern machinery increased the demand for semiskilled and unskilled workers. Also, the nature of the work process altered from one mainly dependent on physical power to one primarily dominated by technology and an increasing proportion of the labor force employed to operate machines.

browse Report:
Slave and Expert Systems
    Introduction: The Substitution of Human Faculties with Technology: Early Tools
-3   Introduction: The Substitution of Human Faculties with Technology: Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems
-2   Early Tools and Machines
-1   The 17th Century: The Invention of the First "Computers"
0   The 18th Century: Powered Machines and the Industrial Revolution
+1   The 19th Century: Machine-Assisted Manufacturing
+2   The 19th Century: First Programmable Computing Devices
+3   1913: Henry Ford and the Assembly Line
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.