Automation is both the name of a work process ( automation ) and its work result (automated objects). The term automation serves at the same time to characterize economic-technological development phases ("age of automation") and is also the subject of socio-political discussions, especially philosophical debates through to artistic processing.
The term “automation” has Greek roots with the meaning of “moving itself” ( ancient Greek αὐτόματος automatos ). Automation systems are therefore able to independently solve tasks or problems of a constant or changing nature. The solutions to the tasks or problems are to be understood as the desired “goals”.
In a narrower sense, automation characterizes the intrinsic endeavor of systems to achieve goals through independent or independent (autonomous) action , to follow changing goals, to form and maintain goals or, when goals are achieved, to develop activities to stabilize the system despite existing disruptions.
Examples of automation:
- according to DIN V 19233 defined as "equipping a facility so that it works as intended in whole or in part without human involvement."
- the conversion process of a company to technical production systems for independent production with the exclusion of human labor. The state of complete automation is referred to in business administration as automation,
- the combination of recurring functional sequences in electronic data processing into macros or new program functions , for example in word processing, image processing or in geographical information systems . The configuration process is also automated with the unattended installation .
If machines are used in a manual work process to carry out physically strenuous work, it is a matter of mechanization , whereby the process flow is still controlled by humans. In contrast, with automation , the process sequence is also controlled by machines (automatic machines), and humans monitor the overall automated process and carry out the non-automated process steps.
The concept of automation goes back to ancient Greece , where the goddess Automatia (Greek: αυτοματια, which comes by itself) was worshiped and chapels were consecrated.
- "If every tool at the behest, or even anticipating that could do him rightful work, such as the Daedalus art moved by itself, or the tripods of Hephaestus of my own accord to the sacred work went when so Weber vessels woven by itself, would require neither for the foreman of the assistants nor for the masters of the slaves. "
In 1745, the English blacksmith Edmund Lee invented an early automation device that allowed windmills to turn independently in the wind. According to records from ancient times , there were machines that were driven by a wind turbine and did work that had previously been carried out by humans or animals. In the Middle Ages , people started to build windmills so that they could be rotated around a vertical axis. The windmills were steered in the direction of the wind by muscle power so that they would not stop working. Lee's invention, an additional wind turbine with a gearbox , allowed the machine to react independently to changes in its environment as was necessary to carry out its task.
With the advances in mechanics and new drive technologies such as the steam engine , the age of industrialization dawned. Mass production in factories became possible. Animal and human strength became increasingly replaceable by engines .
In 1787 Edmond Cartwright first used automatic looms , the Power Looms he had developed himself . They were the first automatic machines for industrial production. Cartwright himself failed economically with his weaving. But his inventions prevailed and had far-reaching social effects. From 1811 onwards there were revolts of weavers in England who were directed against the machines. The machine attackers smashed machines and attacked their supporters. The uprisings were put down by the military and participants were executed or banished. There were similarly motivated uprisings in Switzerland. The protests, known as the weavers' revolts in Germany, were not directed against the new machines, but against foreign workers and suppliers.
The discovery of electricity and inventions of electrical engineering (19th century) enabled the decentralization of production , it became possible energy over long distances to ship. First attempts were made to use electricity for measuring, controlling and regulating .
The Taylorism tried (largely) successful, rational and efficient production methods to establish ( Line ), and changed the world of work. The efficiency of work continues to increase - up to a certain point - but has always been at the expense of the physical or even mental health of employees throughout history. Monotonous work led to exhaustion and alienation of the worker from his work and repeatedly stirred up conflicts between employees and employers, since productivity increases and wage compensation were sometimes grossly disproportionate.
Innovations in electronics , especially the development of transistors , led to the drastic miniaturization of electrical circuits . With the dimensions, the effort for the application of switching algebra decreased . The development of integrated circuits ultimately meant that devices could be equipped with logic without great effort . The digital technology was the preferred means of automation. Advanced field devices ( sensors and actuators ) communicate with the control or regulation and ensure a constant quality of the products even with fluctuations in the process.
The computer technology pioneered a technological development that lead to a general improvement in degree of automation in production with industrial robots , fully automated production lines or techniques such as pattern recognition in artificial intelligence lead. As a result of automation, jobs are often lost in production. A historical example of this is the layoff of workers at the American telephone companies, in which a large number of telephone operators lost their jobs due to the introduction of the automatic dialing system.
In the factories of industrialized countries , goods are largely manufactured by machines, and the role of humans shifts from production to administration, planning, control, maintenance and services.
Many simple (but also dangerous, monotonous or high demands on accuracy or speed) activities can be carried out largely automatically by machines with the help of automation technology, which is usually much more productive .
At the same time, people have to acquire and consolidate their qualifications in simulators , since automated production systems should not be interrupted or learning by doing is not possible or associated with dangers (e.g. power plant or flight simulators).
In 2015, German-Swedish researchers calculated that automation computers could take on every second job.
The spokesman for the Chaos Computer Club , Frank Rieger , warned in various publications (e.g. the book Arbeitsfrei ) that the accelerated automation of many work areas will lead to more and more people losing their jobs in the near future (e.g. truck drivers by self-driving cars ). Among other things, this poses a risk of weakening unions that are losing members. Rieger therefore advocates a "socialization of the automation dividend", that is, taxation of non-human work, so that general prosperity also grows and is fairly distributed as the economy grows. According to Rieger, the introduction of an unconditional basic income could also be a solution to the social problems resulting from the automation of the world of work (lecture at re: publica 2015).
Through artificial intelligence , machines are increasingly penetrating work areas that were previously only occupied by people with high qualifications. Stephen Hawking says : The future will tell whether the machines will take control at some point. But what is already clear today is that machines are increasingly displacing people from the labor market. One example of this is machine translation such as Google Translate or DeepL . Another example is the artificial intelligence IBM Watson , which won the 2011 quiz Jeopardy against the two most successful players to date. The machine is today u. a. used to help doctors diagnose diseases. Watson lawyers can also assist with legal research. Today (2016) machines can also recognize and understand language (see speech recognition ), search for answers to questions asked and provide answers in natural language. In a greatly simplified form, this is u. a. used in smartphones z. B. with Siri , Google Now , Cortana and Samsung's S Voice .
What is automation
Reasons for automation
- Increase in throughput or production volume
- Relief of the person from heavy physical or monotonous work
- Saving of personnel costs
- Improvement of product quality
- Uniformity of product quality
- Reduction of defective production (important in processes with many manufacturing steps)
- Improvement of the picking and production processes
- Safe and efficient design of material flows
Main areas of automation
The core areas of automation are the monitoring , control and regulation of processes. Depending on the type, this involves checking the proper operation of process systems, target-oriented adherence to a desired process status despite the disruptive effects of the environment, or the implementation of specified or alternatively selected process sequences.
Some types of automation systems can also be equipped with an adaptive behavior , especially the control systems . Adaptation enables such systems to adapt their behavior to changes in their environment. This ensures that the intended behavior is guaranteed to be of the same quality as possible, even under slowly changing conditions.
Automation also enables the implementation of self-optimizing systems . In this case, the desired goal cannot be specified a priori, but results indirectly as the extreme value of a performance parameter using a non-linear criterion. The functionality in this case consists in approaching this goal by generating goal-oriented pendulum movements and then adhering to it or achieving a changed goal when the environment changes.
Still other automation systems are characterized in that they consist of several competing sub-systems with diametrically opposed objectives of their own. The automatic behavior then consists in the effort to achieve and maintain an a priori unknown balance .
In the course of further development, much more demanding problems were solved on the automation side. This primarily concerns the automation of problem-solving processes . In this case, the person acts as the client for such machines, delegating frequently changing orders to them, whereby he also specifies the goal to be achieved. The goal here is the required problem solution. He then leaves the execution of these mostly complex tasks completely to the commissioned machine, which then not only has to act automatically, but now because of the a priori unforeseeable environmental conditions, must act independently .
The limits of the possible uses of automation have by no means been reached. Automation systems take on more and more complex tasks and tend to become more and more "intelligent". In the course of this development, there have long been solutions that have the ability to learn - both with and without instruction. These learning automation systems contain a so-called metal algorithm, which enables them to learn and prepares what has been learned in a ready-to-use manner. The goal is then the learning objective .
Take advantage of automation
Automation systems distinguish themselves from exclusively human-operated systems in that, in the standard cases, they relieve these activities that have to be carried out repeatedly or under unpredictable conditions, often of a formal-logical nature and, alternatively, carry out these activities without fatigue and with consistent quality. More sophisticated automation systems completely relieve people of complex action processes in the sense of services and do them in their own way.
The substitution of work performance by machines can free people from tiring formal-logical or dangerous activities, but on the other hand this leads to the release of workers . In other cases, people are supported by machines by making their work easier, increasing their safety or even increasing their comfort during existing work. Automation thus makes essential contributions to general progress.
Automation as a special form of information technology
The interaction of the machines with the respective processes creates interactions, whereby information is exchanged. On the one hand, this information relates to statements about the process status or instructions about process interventions to be carried out. The machines can also obtain information from the environment via appropriate sensors . A variety of communications take place with it. The information obtained is processed into new information in the subsystems in accordance with the task. Automation systems thus have the character of information systems .
Automation with technical means
If technical means are used to solve such tasks, they are automation systems . In this case, in addition to the process, automation systems contain automata that are executed in a certain technology as a further subsystem. Depending on the type of automation task, these machines are referred to more specifically in appropriate cases as process monitoring, control or regulation devices, which are built up from typical functional units of automation technology. The facilities required for process optimization, however, are called optimizers .
Automation as a cross-sectional discipline and part of cybernetics
Automated behavior is found not only in the control of technical processes, but also in a large number of natural systems of the most varied of character. It is therefore a universal form of behavior. Automation therefore belongs to a discipline that has a cross-sectional character . Cybernetics forms the overarching theoretical basis .
Action orientation: categorical imperative of automation
Because of the fundamental influence of automation on society as a whole and because of its cross-sectional character, appropriate action orientations are necessary. Based on the categorical imperative of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant , a specific categorical imperative for automation was published:
Always automate so that the maxims of your will and action are subject to the principle of general humanism, i.e. H.
- use automation to free people from strenuous physical and mental (routine) work,
- increase the effectiveness and productivity of human activity through automation,
- advocate a humane use of the increase in effectiveness and productivity, such as is achieved through automation and
- avoid inhumane effects of automation in individual and social areas.
Automation application areas
Automation is finding extremely diverse applications that are constantly expanding. To illustrate the current range of services in this discipline, here is a selection of characteristic examples that relate to the main areas of application:
- Regulation of the temperature and, if necessary, the humidity in living and working spaces with regard to defined setpoints to ensure a permanent feel-good atmosphere for people,
- Constant monitoring of processes, systems, rooms or outdoor systems with regard to the occurrence of defined events with automatic triggering of actions (e.g. issuing alarms, switching on lighting and, in the event of a fire, sprinkler systems, messages to responsible persons or control centers, etc.),
- Regulation of the body's own parameters (body temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, balance, etc.) for the constant maintenance of our vital functions,
- Independent operation of cleaning or mowing robots to free people from time-consuming activities,
- Program-based control of multi-level processes in washing machines to relieve people of a frequently performed and time-consuming activity,
- Course control of aircraft using autopilot on long-haul flights as well as constant monitoring of the surrounding airspace for possible collision risks to relieve the flight captains,
- Ensuring effective automobile production through the use of a number of program-controlled industrial robots as well as a consistently high quality of products through the use of different automation processes,
- Realization of an improved safety standard in the car through a number of integrated, automatically working assistance systems, exemption from frequent or complicated activities (e.g. through automatic transmissions or parking machines) and - in the near future - independent chauffeur in autonomous vehicles,
- Self-optimization of wind turbines in real-time operation in order to maximize the electrical power that can be obtained from the prevailing air flow,
- Intelligent, independent management of the ecological energy sources that can be used to meet demand in self-sufficient residential units,
- Establishing and maintaining a state of equilibrium in ecological systems, consisting of several populations of natural beings with their own objectives,
- Independent deburring of repeatedly supplied castings with different types of burrs by problem-solving work robots to relieve people of heavy work,
- Independent navigation of transport drones to deliver urgently needed medicines or spare parts to remote areas in the shortest possible time,
- Independent control of the movements and actions of personal assistants for the execution of delegated services of varying types for the disabled,
- independent control of the movement of autonomous diving robots for the purpose of searching waters or ocean depths with automatic reappearance,
- Independent execution of demanding missions with different tasks (autonomous docking maneuvers, independent lowering of a space capsule, execution of work orders for robots, etc.) in space and on planets close to the earth.
As these examples show, automation has made many useful contributions in very different fields of application. In doing so, it continues to make essential contributions to general progress, which in one way or another should benefit humanity.
Automation in humans
A central characteristic of all well-mastered complex skills of a person is the extensive automation of the underlying sub-functions. This is illustrated by the example of the acquisition of reading skills: so that a reader can fully devote himself to the actual sense of reading, namely the extraction of meaning, all underlying tasks that create the conditions must run in the background, so to speak, without conscious information processing capacity in form attention must be directed to them.
At the lowest level, for example, in the visual area, there is the decoding of characters . If even this level of reading perception is not automated, it absorbs attention, so that the capacities for the actual task of reading, extracting meaning, are no longer sufficient. This loss of efficiency naturally affects the processing speed with which a text is passed through and will at least make itself felt in a decrease in reading fluency.
The American scientists Shiffrin and Schneider published the opposite comparison of controlled and automated information processing back in 1977. According to Warnke, this model also serves as an explanation for the fact that in students with dyslexia certain automations that have been developed in other students according to their age are lagging behind. When processing your information, you have to resort to cognitive , conscious processes more often than the creditors .
Representations of automation in art
In the movie:
In the literature:
- Kraftwerk : The Human Machine , Kling Klang 1978
- History of Automation, a film by the State Center for Civic Education North Rhine-Westphalia, 2007
- ARD: Title theses temperaments: The consequences of automation - What it means when machines replace people, 2013
- ARD alpha: Constanze Kurz: Total automation, 2014
- VW Golf 7 production Wolfsburg, 2013
- BMW i3 Factory Production Tour, 2014
- autonomous vehicle, 2016
- humanoid robot Atlas, 2016
- humanoid robot Atlas, 2017 on YouTube
- artificial intelligence Watson in quiz show Jeopardy, 2011
- Robot handle rolling on two wheels, inexpensive, 2017
- Avatar based on IBM Watson, 2017
- History of technology , future technology , mechanization
- Computer science , Jidoka , mechanical engineering , robotics , process engineering , Institute for Automation
- Industrial revolution , mechanization , technology assessment , technocracy , utopia
- Work (philosophy) , unemployment , labor value theory , service society ,
- Programming , electronic data processing
- Measurement, control and regulation technology
- Building automation
- Production automation
- Robot-controlled process automation
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