Report: Slave and Expert Systems

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  Early Tools and Machines

Already in early cultures men aimed at the expansion of their physical power in order to facilitate work processes. In prehistoric times first tools made of stone were developed and some thousand years later followed by the invention of simple mechanical devices and machines such as the wheel, the lever and the pulley.

Next came the construction of powered machines. Waterwheels, windmills and simple steam-driven devices did no longer require human strength to be operated. In China for example trip-hammers powered by flowing water and waterwheels were already used some 2,000 years ago.

Besides tools and machines, which helped to extend men's physical power also devices to support mental faculties, especially in the field of mathematics, were invented. As soon as 3000 BC the abacus was developed in Babylonia. By using a system of sliding beads arranged on a rack early merchants could make computations, which helped them keep track of their trading transactions.

Also, early "industrial-robot devices" were developed as soon as 250 BC. The clepsydra, or water clock, which improved upon the hourglass by employing a siphon principle to automatically recycle itself, was constructed by a Greek inventor and physicist, Ctesibius of Alexandria.

browse Report:
Slave and Expert Systems
-4   Introduction: The Substitution of Human Faculties with Technology: Early Tools
-3   Introduction: The Substitution of Human Faculties with Technology: Powered Machines
-2   Introduction: The Substitution of Human Faculties with Technology: Computers and Robots
-1   Introduction: The Substitution of Human Faculties with Technology: Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems
0   Early Tools and Machines
+1   The 17th Century: The Invention of the First "Computers"
+2   The 18th Century: Powered Machines and the Industrial Revolution
+3   The 19th Century: Machine-Assisted Manufacturing
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.