The age of automation. Its effects on human welfare (1955)

Yet today each of us, expert and non-expert, is being urged to have an opinion about that most advanced form or controls for industrial production, while hundred of articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines during the past two years warning the public that this new development can lead to massive unemployment or proclaiming that it will usher in a new “golden age” of plenty. The plain truth, however, is that most of us have little more real understanding of automation .. .

The purpose of this pamphlet is to increase the amount of common sense and understanding which we can bring to bear on the problems which are likely to accompany the advance of automation. …

Aus dem Kapitel “What Is Automation”:

What has happened, then is that over several decades there has been a steady increase in various major and minor industries of selfregulating machinery, of the centralization of control of the component devices, and of the integration of the machines for continuous process production. What makes the past decade so significant, and has made “automation” an everyday word, is the break-through on the theoretical level leading to the creation of the modern computers. Not only will automation come ever more rapidly where it is already under way, but it will appear in industries that, ten years ago, would have relegated such technological change to the realm of the distant future, if not to science fiction.

We often tend to think of advances in industrial machinery as the work of men who design and install the machinery itself. While these men are essential and major contributors to technological change, its roots are in the new theories developed by the “ivory tower boys” who deal with the abstract, “impractical’ frontier of human thought and conjecture about the nature of the world in which we live. When they develop a new understanding which has a wide range of both theoretical and practical applications a major “break-through” has been scored and neither the world of the university nor the world of the factory can remain the same.

The best-known modern example of this is Albert Einstein, from who e theories about the nature of matter, developed a “pure science,” we have moved in relatively short time to the hydrogen bomb, the atom-powered submarine, and atom-power-derived electricity. The advances of automation would have been low and limited if it had not been for the work of  “pure” scientists in the fields of communication theory and mathematic, plus the pre ssure of the Second World War for vastly better computing and controlling devices for defense against aircraft, etc. These “pure” scientists in Britain, France and the United State were of many different national origin including Japanese, Mexican and German. …

Aus “Automation and Individualized Products”.

There is some evidence now of an expanded demand in our society for the customized, the individualized product. Although it is very mall, the percentage of custom-made car have been increasing every year, and so have the number of mass-produced cars individualized by “hot rodder .” There ha been a noticeable revival of the cabinet-making craft using plastics and plywoods to create unique kitchen cabinets, hi-fi sets, and recreation rooms for people living, in many case , in more or less mass -produced homes. “Do it your elf,” which sometimes i a costly or more costly than buying ” it,” is another .mean by which greater individuality is being brought into the artifacts of everyday existence.

Will automation threaten this trend toward more variety in products and more individuality in posessions, or can it facilitate it by providing high-quality standardized units a the foundation upon which to construct the customized superstructure? Which way, in these terms, should the small manufacturer jump? Should he try to compete with the big fellow by automating his production, too, if it is financially possible to do so and if he can obtain the necessary personnel and research? Or could he latch on to the trend in our consumption patterns toward the more individualized product and even act to facilitate that trend in order to keep his market and his place in the economic sun?

Die personalisierte Produktion (Mass Customization) soll, Jahrzehnte später, mit der Industrie 4.0 und 3D-Druck Wirklichkeit werden bzw. ist es in Teilen schon. Die Fragen bleiben.

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