The Ascent of GIM, the Global Intelligent Machine:
A History of Production and Information Machines

Teun Koetsier



1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

1.1 GIM, The Global Intelligent Machine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
1.2 Cultural Evolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
1.3 Production Technology and Information Technology . . . . 4

2 The Rise of Homo Sapiens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

2.1 Animals Using Production Tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2.2 Monkeys and Apes Using Production Tools . . . . . . . . . . 8
2.3 Information Tools in the Animal World: Clues,
               Signs and Signals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
2.4 Communicating Honey Bees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
2.5 Communication Among Monkeys and Apes . . . . . . . . . .13
2.6 From the Hairpin Ancestor to Homo Sapiens . . . . . . . . . 14
2.7 Olduwan Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.8 The Adze Makers of Langda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
2.9 Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
2.10 The Control of Fire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . 20
2.11 The Stone Age Revolution. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
2.12 Information Tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
2.13 Whistle Languages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
2.14 Talking Drums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
2.15 The Ishango Bone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
2.16 Orientation in Space, Maps in the Pacific . . . . . . . . . . .. 28

3 Tools in the Early Agricultural Empires . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

3.1 Economic Surplus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
3.2 Agriculture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . 35
3.3 The Wheel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
3.4 Monumental Architecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
3.5 Complete Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
3.6 Towards the Alphabet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
3.7 Mathematics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
3.8 Sundials and Water Clocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . 52

4 The Axial Age and the Birth of Western Science . . . . . .55

4.1 The Axial Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
4.2 The Rise of Abstract Symbolic Thought in China
             and India
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
4.3 Oral Versus Written Thought . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60
4.4 Aristotle’s Logic, a New Information Tool . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
4.5 Knowledge-How Versus Knowledge-That . . . . . . . . . . . . .64
4.6 Deductive Science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
4.7 The Birth of the Theory of Machines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
4.8 The Wedge and the Pulleys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
4.9 Archimedes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
4.10 The Invention of the Screw . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
4.11 Heron’s Mechanics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
4.12 Combinations of Simple Machines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
4.13 Difficulties in Understanding the Wedge
             and the Inclined Plane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80

5 Machines in Classical Antiquity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .83

5.1 The Invention of Artillery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
5.2 Production Machines in Vitruvius’ Ten Books
              on Architecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
5.3 The Phaistos Disk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
5.4 The Abacus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
5.5 Water Clocks and Sundials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
5.6 The Armillary Sphere . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
5.7 The Anaphoric Clock . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
5.8 The Astrolabe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
5.9 The Mystery of the Antikythera Mechanism . . . . . . . . . . . .101
5.10 The Front Dial . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
5.11 The Upper Back Dial . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .104
5.12 The Pin and Slot Mechanism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
5.13 The Hodometer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .107
5.14 Automata . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108

6 The Middle Ages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111

6.1 Marco Polo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
6.2 Textile Machines. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
6.3 Military Technology . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
6.4 Metal Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
6.5 Movable Type Printing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
6.7 Automata . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
6.8 Chinese Influence in the West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..120
6.9 The Golden Age of Islamic Science . . . . . . . . . . . . . .121
6.10 Islamic Culture, the Information Machines
             of the Three Banu Musa
. . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .123
6.11 Al-Jazari’s Machines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125
6.12 Al-Muradi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . 127
6.13 The Rise of the West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 128
6.14 Jordanus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 
6.15 The Vision of Ramon Llull . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
6.16 Llull’s Influence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
6.17 A New Information Machine: The Mechanical Clock . . . 140

7 The Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution . . . . . . .145

7.1 The Invention of the Printing Press . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .145
7.2 The Impact of the Printing Press . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . 146
7.3 Da Vinci and the Others . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
7.4 Parachute, Tank and Machine Gun .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
7.5 Da Vinci as an Engineer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
7.6 Da Vinci’s Fame. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152
7.7 Theaters of Machines . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
7.8 Exterior Ballistics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
7.9 Del Monte and Simple Machines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156
7.10 Galilei and Simple Machines . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
7.11 The Archimedean Screw Pump . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162
7.12 Astronomy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
7.13 Galilei’s Discorsi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
7.14 A Remarkable Flemish Engineer: Simon Stevin . . . . . . 164
7.15 There Is More . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 169
7.16 The Dream of a Mathesis Universalis . . . . . . . . . . . . 170
7.17 Calculators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171
7.18 Scepticism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 174

8 The First Wave of Industrial Revolution: Cotton Textiles
          
and Pig Iron . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177

8.1 The Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177
8.2 The Role of the Scientific Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178
8.3 A Macroeconomic View of the Industrial Revolution .. . . . .180
8.4 The Malthusian Trap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 181
8.5 The Escape from the Trap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .182
8.6 One or More Industrial Revolutions? . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .184
8.7 Innovation and Long Waves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 185
8.8 The Control Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 188
8.9 Textile Industry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
8.10 Steam Engines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .190
8.11 Safety Valve and Governor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192
8.12 Robert Stirling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194
8.13 Printing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . 195
8.14 A Changing World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
8.15 The Clockmakers and the Art of the Transformation
               of Motion
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..... . . . . . . . . . .198
8.16 Watt’s Parallelogram . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202
8.17 Babbage’s Machines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204

9 The Second Wave of Industrial Revolution: Railroads
          and Steel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209

9.1 Globalization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209
9.2 The Railroads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . 211
9.3 Stephenson’s Valve Gear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214
9.4 Corliss Engines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216
9.5 Problems of Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217
9.6 Organizational Charts: The Birth of a New Information
            Tool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220
9.7 Office Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
9.8 Kinematics and the Birth of Scientific Technology . . . . . . . 226
9.9 The Energetic Approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . 229
9.10 Sadi Carnot and the Carnot Machine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231
9.11 Thermodynamics Is Born. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234
9.12 The Application of Thermodynamics to the Design
              of Actual Machines . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . 237

10 More Scientific Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241

10.1 Electrical Engineering . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . 241
10.2 Ballistics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243
10.3 Iron in Architecture . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . 247
10.4 Scientific Management . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 252
10.5 Control Rooms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 252
10.6 Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253
10.7 Calculators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255
10.8 Statistical Machines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 256
10.9 Scientific Calculators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 259
10.10 Kelvin’s Tide Predictors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262
10.11 Differential Analyzers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265

11 Electronic Brains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 267

11.1 The Fourth Wave and the First Programmable Computers . 267
11.2 Turing Machines: What Can Be Computed in Principle? . .270
11.4 The Mechanization of the Mind . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . 275
11.5 Early Computers in the USA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . 278
11.6 Real Time Computing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 281
11.7 Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283
11.8 The Computer Becomes Personal . . . . . . . . . . . . . 286
11.9 The Fifth Wave and the World Wide Web . . . .. . . 287
11.10 Smartphones and More . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 289

12 Towards the Global Intelligent Machine . . . . . . .. . . . 293

12.1 Early Hybrid Machines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 293
12.2 Karel Čapek . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 295
12.3 An Early Parallel Robot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 296
12.4 Analogue Computer-Controlled Machines . . . . . . . 298
12.5 From Analogue to Numerical Control . . . . . . . . . . . . 300
12.6 Cybernetics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 301
12.7 An Early Serial Robot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 302
12.8 Robotics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 303
12.9 The Stewart Platform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 305
12.10 Field and Service Robots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 306
12.11 Artificial Intelligence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . 308
12.12 The Internet of Things. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310
12.13 The Global Intelligent Machine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 311
12.14 On the Way to GIM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 312
12.15 GIM Is Growing Fast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 315
12.16 Industry 4.0 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317

13 Epilogue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 319

13.1 Hindsight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 319
13.2 A Brave New World? . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 320
13.3 The Battleground . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 321
13.4 Cybercrime . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 322
13.5 Unemployment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323
13.6 Security, Privacy and Fake News . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 324
13.7 Optimism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 325

Endnotes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . 327

Literature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 349

Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 359

Note: I have italicized sections of particular relevance to my projects. – RD



Note sections of special interest to my projects:

4.2 The Rise of Abstract Symbolic Thought in China and India
5.14 Automata
6.7 Automata
6.8 Chinese Influence in the West 120
6.9 The Golden Age of Islamic Science
6.10 Islamic Culture, the Information Machines of the Three Banu Musa
6.15 The Vision of Ramon Llull
6.16 Llull’s Influence
7.16 The Dream of a Mathesis Universalis
7.17 Calculators
7.18 Scepticism
8.15 The Clockmakers and the Art of the Transformation of Motion
8.17 Babbage’s Machines
12.2 Karel Čapek

Koetsier’s book aims at global comprehensiveness and is impressive as far as it goes. Oddly, though, Karl Marx’s pivotal contribution is bypassed completely. The closest we come to is this, section 8.7—Innovation and Long Waves—which begins thusly (p. 185-186, boldface mine, endnotes omitted):

In 1926 the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratieff published a paper with empirical data that he had collected on capitalist economies and he argued that such economies follow cycles of depression (crisis), recovery, prosperity, and recession (stagnation) that last about half a century. Kondratieff used time series of price, wage and interest rates and he found cycles with peaks at 1810-1817, 1870-1875 and 1914-1920. Kondratieff thought he had discovered long waves with a period of roughly 50 years in the development of capitalist economies.

Kondratieff was not the first to notice the phenomenon. Thirteen years earlier a Dutchman and Marxist economist, Jacob van Gelderen (1891-1940), had come to the same conclusion. Kondratief’s work however, made a special impact when people realized that it seemed that he had predicted the 1929 crisis.

Interpreting economic statistics is not easy. Capitalist economies are very complex and there are several parameters to consider when one tries to establish a wave pattern. Kondratieff looked at prices, but investment activities and industrial output are other factors worth considering. And then, assuming the pattern that Kondratieff noticed in the statistics corresponds to something real, several questions arise. What causes the pattern? To what extent is it an essential aspect of capitalist economy?

Kondratieff formulated several characteristics of the waves. One of them was that during the downswing many important inventions in the techniques of production and communication are made, although they are usually applied on a large scale only at the beginning of the next long upswing. In 1939 the Harvard economist Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950) published his book Business Cycles in which he tried to explain the cyclical phenomena that Kondratieff had noticed. Schumpeter based his explanation on the clustering of technical innovations during the recession phase which is followed by a new expansion based upon these technical innovations. According to Schumpeter the essential link between innovations and cyclical fluctuations is this. The innovations are new combinations of materials and productive forces. The cycles arise because innovations occur in groups or swarms. And why do they occur in swarms? Schumpeter: “Exclusively because the appearance of one or a few entrepreneurs facilitates the appearance of others, and these the appearance of more, in ever increasing numbers”. Inevitably such booms will come to an end. Schumpeter put the peak of the first wave in 1813/14, the peak of the second wave in 1869/70 and the peak of the third in 1924/25. Schumpeter added: “These datings do not lack historical justification. Yet they are not only tentative, but also by nature merely approximate”.

The separate theoretical and historiographical trajectories of science and technology studies, Marxism and critical theory need to be brought together, in view of overcoming the provincialism of disparate traditions in the intellectual division of labor. Marx was heavily influenced by Charles Babbage’s work on machinery and capitalist economics, but never got around to engaging Babbage’s work on his ‘analytical engine’, i.e., the direct ancestor of the electronic computer. This history can be enriched by a Marxist perspective, and critical theory needs to improve its engagement with this history so as to further a more concrete and credible account of the intertwining of reason and irrationality in the productions of human history.

One aspect of this history is the history of symbolic, notational, and conceptual ‘technology’ that enables thought and cultural expression to progress. An interesting perspective on this evolution form the standpoint of today's conceptualization of information an be found here:

Cramer, Florian. Words Made Flesh: Code, Culture, Imagination. Rotterdam: Piet Zwart Institute, 2005.


SOURCE: Koetsier, Teun. The Ascent of GIM, the Global Intelligent Machine: A History of Production and Information Machines. Cham: Springer, 2019. Contents, pp. ix- xiii.


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