Automation and Ice Cream

A guy named Ken Fox, who posts frequently at X, designs automation systems–electrical components, pneumatics, and software–especially for the food processing industry.  Here’s his ice cream cone filler at work: video.

There are a lot more videos at his X feed.

When people talk about manufacturing, they usually seem to think about metalworking in one form or another–but there are other important types of manufacturing, including the process industries…refining, fertilizer manufacturing, plastics processing…pharmaceuticals manufacturing…and food processing.

Also, I notice that a lot of people judge the level of automation in a particular company or across an entire national economy by counting robots.  I don’t think this is a very good metric.  How many humanoid robots would it take to equal the performance of Ken’s ice cream cone filler, or any of the other automation systems in his video collection?  You could in principle make a CNC machine tool by having a humanoid robot turn the wheels on a manual machine tool, but it makes a lot more sense to just mount the servos directly on the machine.  Similarly, elevators could in principle have been automated by having a humanoid robot handle the controls, but it was simpler to just build the logic into the system.

There will be a big role for humanoid robots, certainly, but I suspect that in many cases they will be a temporary bridge to a more comprehensive system.

Anyhow, enjoy the videos!

The Social and Economic Influence of AI and Robotics

…some historical precedents.

There is currently much discussion of the impending effects of artificial intelligence and robotics on employment, the economy, and our society as a whole. (here, for example)  I think it’s useful to look at some historical precedents, always keeping in mind the caution that ‘past results do not guarantee future outcomes.’

Peter Gaskell’s book Artisans and Machinery is about the effects of the industrial revolution, as seen by a contemporary observer.  I reviewed and excerpted it here, along with some much later commentary by the British writer and scientist CP Snow.

My post Attack of the Job-Killing Robots (three-part series) is a 30,000-foot view of the history of automation over the centuries and of some resulting automation panics.

Your thoughts?