Jacques de Vaucanson

24 results back to index


pages: 322 words: 88,197

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

Ada Lovelace, Alfred Russel Wallace, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Book of Ingenious Devices, Buckminster Fuller, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, colonial exploitation, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Drosophila, Edward Thorp, Fellow of the Royal Society, game design, global village, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, HyperCard, invention of air conditioning, invention of the printing press, invention of the telegraph, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, land value tax, Landlord’s Game, lone genius, mass immigration, megacity, Minecraft, moral panic, Murano, Venice glass, music of the spheres, Necker cube, New Urbanism, Oculus Rift, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, pets.com, placebo effect, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit motive, QWERTY keyboard, Ray Oldenburg, spice trade, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, talking drums, the built environment, The Great Good Place, the scientific method, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, urban planning, Victor Gruen, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight, white picket fence, Whole Earth Catalog, working poor, Wunderkammern

(When the robots eventually write the history of their species, these animated tableaux will serve nicely as a creation myth.) By the early 1700s, the focus shifted from re-creating the bustle of an animated village or garden to building increasingly lifelike simulations of individual organisms. In the first half of the eighteenth century, the French inventor Jacques de Vaucanson famously constructed an automaton called the Digesting Duck that consumed grain, flapped its wings, and—the pièce de résistance—actually defecated after eating. A few decades later, in 1758, a Swiss horologist named Pierre Jaquet-Droz traveled to Madrid to present an array of wonders to King Ferdinand, most of them pendulum or water clocks that featured animated storks, flute-playing shepherds, and songbirds—the mechanical descendants of al-Jazari’s ingenious devices.

Hidden inside the pedestal, air pumps and crankshafts controlled the pressure of the air released through the shepherd’s mouth, along with the movement of the automaton’s fingers. A pinned cylinder controlled the volume and sequence of the notes played; a rotating collection of cylinders allowed the shepherd to play twelve distinct songs. The flute player was the creation of Jacques de Vaucanson, the French automaton designer now most famous for his “digesting duck.” (The duck would appear at the Hôtel de Longueville on a pedestal next to the flute player the following year.) Vaucanson was the first of the automaton designers to focus on creating truly lifelike behavior in his machines, with movements that were predicated on careful anatomical study.

(And, in the case of the flute player, to accompany those sound waves with physical movements that mimicked the behavior of human musicians.) Think of all the ways that the world has been transformed by software, by machines whose behavior can be sculpted and reimagined by new instruction sets. For almost a thousand years, we had that meta-tool in our collective toolbox, and we did nothing with it other than play music. Jacques de Vaucanson Vaucanson’s flute player, however, would lead us out of that functional cul-de-sac. Designing the programmable cylinders that brought the musical shepherd to life suggested another application to Vaucanson, one that had far more commercial promise than showcasing androids in hotel lobbies.


What Kind of Creatures Are We? (Columbia Themes in Philosophy) by Noam Chomsky

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, conceptual framework, en.wikipedia.org, failed state, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, liberation theology, mass incarceration, means of production, phenotype, Ronald Reagan, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, Turing test, wage slave

The theoretical counterpart was the materialist conception of the world that animated the seventeenth-century scientific revolution, the conception of the world as a machine, simply a far grander version of the automata that stimulated the imagination of thinkers of the time much in the way programmed computers do today: the remarkable clocks, the artifacts constructed by master artisans like Jacques de Vaucanson that imitated animal behavior and internal functions like digestion, the hydraulically activated machines that played instruments and pronounced words when triggered by visitors walking through the royal gardens. The mechanical philosophy aimed to dispense with forms flitting through the air, sympathies and antipathies, and other occult ideas, and to keep to what is firmly grounded in commonsense understanding and intelligible to it.


pages: 797 words: 227,399

Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P. W. Singer

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Atahualpa, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bill Joy: nanobots, blue-collar work, borderless world, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, Craig Reynolds: boids flock, cuban missile crisis, digital map, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Firefox, Francisco Pizarro, Frank Gehry, friendly fire, game design, George Gilder, Google Earth, Grace Hopper, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, if you build it, they will come, illegal immigration, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of gunpowder, invention of movable type, invention of the steam engine, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, job automation, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Law of Accelerating Returns, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, New Urbanism, pattern recognition, private military company, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Schrödinger's Cat, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Yogi Berra

—SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL “Perhaps the most wonderful piece of mechanism ever made” is how the famous Scottish engineer Sir David Brewster would describe it some one hundred years after it was invented. By contrast, the great poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called it “most deplorable ... like a skeleton [with] digestive problems.” The two men were talking about Vaucanson’s duck, the mechanical wonder of its age, or, as present-day scientists call it, “the Defecating Duck.” Jacques de Vaucanson was born in Grenoble, France, in 1709. At the age of twenty-six, he moved to Paris, then the center of culture and science during the Age of Enlightenment. Inspired by Isaac Newton’s idea of the universe as a great clock that had been set in motion by the Creator, the Deist philosophers of the time saw the world as guided by mechanical forces.

Congress ordered the Pentagon to show a “preference for joint unmanned systems in acquisition programs for new systems, including a requirement under any such program for the development of a manned system for a certification that an unmanned system is incapable of meeting program requirements.” If the U.S. military was going to buy a new weapon, it would now have to justify why it was not a robotic one. In a certain way, then, the history of robots had come full circle. Jacques de Vaucanson had impressed the most powerful leaders of his time with a futuristic vision of a world filled with artificial creations. Some 250 years later, President George Bush, the first president of the twenty-first century, saw the world turning out to be much the same way, just without the duck. “Now it is clear the military does not have enough unmanned vehicles,” he said.

unit cohesion and war crimes and war porn and warrior redefined by see also military robotics; robotics; robots; war, warfare Unrestricted Warfare (Qiao and Wang) Urbanscape program USV (unmanned surface vessel) U-2 spy plane UUV (unmanned underwater vehicle) V-1 rocket V-2 missile V-3 (supercannon) van Creveld, Martin Vanguard (robot) Varian, Paul Vaucanson, Jacques de Vaucanson’s duck VB-1 Azons (radio-controlled bomb) Vego, Milan Velvet Underground Verdun, Battle of Verhoff, Donald VeriChip company Verne, Jules Verruggio, Gianmarco Very-high-altitude, Ultra-endurance, Loitering Theater Unmanned Reconnaissance Element (VULTURE) Vick, Michael Vietnam Vietnam War My Lai atrocity in smart bombs in Tonkin Gulf Incident and UAVs in Vincennes, U.S.S.


Speaking Code: Coding as Aesthetic and Political Expression by Geoff Cox, Alex McLean

4chan, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, bash_history, bitcoin, cloud computing, computer age, computer vision, crowdsourcing, dematerialisation, Donald Knuth, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Everything should be made as simple as possible, finite state, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hacker Conference 1984, Ian Bogost, Jacques de Vaucanson, Larry Wall, late capitalism, means of production, natural language processing, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, packet switching, peer-to-peer, Richard Stallman, Ronald Coase, Slavoj Žižek, social software, social web, software studies, speech recognition, stem cell, Stewart Brand, The Nature of the Firm, Turing machine, Turing test, Vilfredo Pareto, We are Anonymous. We are Legion, We are the 99%, WikiLeaks, Yochai Benkler

He is explaining the gap that separates the negated system’s “real” death from its “symbolic” death. 25. Virno, Multitude, 63. 26. Ibid., 50. 27. Butler, Excitable Speech, 15. 28. Virno, Multitude, 50. 29. Žižek, The Ticklish Subject, 18. 30. Ibid., 60. Further invoked here is the input-output automaton Canard Digérateur, or Digesting Duck, created by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739, which appeared to eat grain, metabolize, and defecate. A replica of Vaucanson’s mechanical duck, created by Frédéric Vidoni, can be seen at the Musée des Automates, Grenoble, France. 31. Virno, Multitude, 190. 32. The slogan “Information wants to be free” is attributed to Stewart Brand, who argued that technology could be liberating rather than oppressing.


pages: 222 words: 74,587

Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929 by Markus Krajewski, Peter Krapp

business process, continuation of politics by other means, double entry bookkeeping, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, index card, Index librorum prohibitorum, information retrieval, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, Jacques de Vaucanson, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, knowledge worker, means of production, new economy, paper trading, Turing machine

Remington & Sons Typewriter Company, spun off by gun producer Eliphalet Remington II in 1886, acquires both Library Bureau and Globe Wernicke, merging them the following year with Rand Kardex to form Remington Rand Inc.78 A department called Remington Kardex Bureau spurs the decisive advancement of the index card to an automated storage device principle whose origins refer once more to Europe, that is, to the eighteenth century and Jacques de Vaucanson as well as Joseph Marie Jacquard’s punch cards.79 After 1958, five electric-pneumatically linked Remington Rand typewriters print the paper slips of the last analog catalog of the Austrian National Library, five copies synchronized by compressed air. However, they prove inferior to the more robust and soon widely used electric typewriters of the International Business Machines Corporation, and as a result are disposed of.80 The intertwined genealogy of card index makers and typewriter manufacturers, leading to the production of the universal discrete machine, remains an American history of mergers and acquisitions.


pages: 252 words: 79,452

To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death by Mark O'Connell

3D printing, Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Picking Challenge, artificial general intelligence, brain emulation, clean water, cognitive dissonance, computer age, cosmological principle, dark matter, disruptive innovation, double helix, Edward Snowden, effective altruism, Elon Musk, Extropian, friendly AI, global pandemic, impulse control, income inequality, invention of the wheel, Jacques de Vaucanson, John von Neumann, knowledge economy, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, Lyft, Mars Rover, means of production, Norbert Wiener, Peter Thiel, profit motive, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, San Francisco homelessness, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Singularitarianism, Skype, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, technoutopianism, The Coming Technological Singularity, Travis Kalanick, trickle-down economics, Turing machine, uber lyft, Vernor Vinge

In it, La Mettrie takes a radical step beyond Descartes by jettisoning entirely the notion of the soul, and portraying the human creature as no different in kind to the animals Descartes had presented to the world as mere machines. For him, the human body was “a self-winding machine, a living representation of perpetual motion.” La Mettrie had been influenced by seeing the exhibited automata of the inventor Jacques de Vaucanson, whose most famous work was a mechanical duck that, when fed grain, appeared to have the ability of metabolizing and then defecating it. (“Without the shitting duck of Vaucanson,” Voltaire sharply observed, “we would have nothing to remind us of the glory of France.”) Vaucanson also made human automata, although these were charged not with the production of feces, but with more genteel labors like the playing of flutes and the banging of tambourines.


pages: 361 words: 83,886

Inside the Robot Kingdom: Japan, Mechatronics and the Coming Robotopia by Frederik L. Schodt

carbon-based life, computer age, Computer Numeric Control, computer vision, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, factory automation, game design, guest worker program, industrial robot, Jacques de Vaucanson, Norbert Wiener, post-industrial society, robot derives from the Czech word robota Czech, meaning slave, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, telepresence, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, V2 rocket, Whole Earth Review, women in the workforce

., described how pneumatics, counterweights, and cams could be used to construct mechanical singing birds, drinking animals, and even a type of coin vending machine. In the eighteenth century, European automata reached their zenith with the application of complex mechanisms from clock technology. Jacques de Vaucanson fascinated the entire continent with a mechanical duck that quacked, ate, and defecated. The androids of Pierre Jaquet-Droz and sons could draw, write messages, and play musical instruments and were so uncannily lifelike they are said by some to have inspired Mary Shelley to write her novel Frankenstein.


pages: 360 words: 100,991

Heart of the Machine: Our Future in a World of Artificial Emotional Intelligence by Richard Yonck

3D printing, AI winter, artificial general intelligence, Asperger Syndrome, augmented reality, backpropagation, Berlin Wall, brain emulation, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, computer age, computer vision, crowdsourcing, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, friendly AI, ghettoisation, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of writing, Jacques de Vaucanson, job automation, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, Loebner Prize, Menlo Park, meta-analysis, Metcalfe’s law, neurotypical, Oculus Rift, old age dependency ratio, pattern recognition, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, Skype, social intelligence, software as a service, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, telepresence, telepresence robot, The future is already here, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing test, twin studies, undersea cable, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Review, working-age population, zero day

Berman Center/Drugstore.com survey. Unpublished, 2004; D. Herbenick, M. Reece, S. Sanders, B. Dodge, A. Ghassemi, J. D. Fortenberry. “Prevalence and characteristics of vibrator use by women in the United States: results from a nationally representative study.” Journal of Sexual Medicine. July 2009. 6(7): 1857–1866. 8. Jacques de Vaucanson was an eighteenth-century French inventor famous for his automata that simulated biological functions. His masterpiece is considered to have been the Digesting Duck. Made up of hundreds of pieces, the mechanical duck could flap its wings, drink water, eat and digest grain, pass it though its stomach and intestines, then finally defecate it.


pages: 370 words: 94,968

The Most Human Human: What Talking With Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian

4chan, Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, carbon footprint, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, complexity theory, crowdsourcing, David Heinemeier Hansson, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, George Akerlof, Gödel, Escher, Bach, high net worth, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jaron Lanier, job automation, l'esprit de l'escalier, Loebner Prize, Menlo Park, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, starchitect, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Thales of Miletus, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero-sum game

(Which latter problem, as Sacks suggests, is of the “right hemisphere” variety.) For some time in eighteenth-century Europe, there was a sweeping fad of automatons: contraptions made to look and act as much like real people or animals as possible. The most famous and celebrated of these was the “Canard Digérateur”—the “Digesting Duck”—created by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739. The duck provoked such a sensation that Voltaire himself wrote of it, albeit with tongue in cheek: “Sans … le canard de Vaucanson vous n’auriez rien qui fit ressouvenir de la gloire de la France,” sometimes humorously translated as “Without the shitting duck we’d have nothing to remind us of the glory of France.”


Powers and Prospects by Noam Chomsky

anti-communist, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, colonial rule, declining real wages, deindustrialization, deskilling, Fall of the Berlin Wall, invisible hand, Jacques de Vaucanson, John von Neumann, liberation theology, Monroe Doctrine, Nixon triggered the end of the Bretton Woods system, old-boy network, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, theory of mind, Tobin tax, Turing test

As I mentioned earlier, the first cognitive revolution was stimulated by the achievements of automata, much as today, and complex devices were constructed to simulate real objects and their functioning: the digestion of a duck, a flying bird, and so on. But the purpose was not to determine whether machines can digest or fly. Jacques de Vaucanson, the great artificer of the period, was concerned to understand the animate systems he was modelling; he constructed mechanical devices in order to formulate and validate theories of his animate models, not to satisfy some performance criterion. His clockwork duck, for example, was intended to be a model of the actual digestion of a duck, not a facsimile that might fool his audience.


pages: 330 words: 102,178

Steampunk Prime: A Vintage Steampunk Reader by Mike Ashley, Paul Di Filippo

Fellow of the Royal Society, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, Plutocrats, plutocrats

It walked around the island three times each day making itself red hot and embracing any strangers it encountered. Mechanical toys, usually of clockwork, were made throughout the Middle Ages though the first genuine life-like bio-mechanical toy was that of a flute player made by the French inventor Jacques de Vaucanson in 1737. These toys became very popular and were also represented in fiction, one of the earliest being the Talking Turk in “Automata” by E. T. A. Hoffmann, published in 1814. It was the idea of creating man that really launched science fiction with the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), and it was the “steam man” featured in the popular dime-novel adventures, starting with The Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward F.


pages: 340 words: 97,723

The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity by Amy Webb

Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Airbnb, airport security, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic bias, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, autonomous vehicles, backpropagation, Bayesian statistics, Bernie Sanders, bioinformatics, blockchain, Bretton Woods, business intelligence, Cass Sunstein, Claude Shannon: information theory, cloud computing, cognitive bias, complexity theory, computer vision, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Deng Xiaoping, disinformation, distributed ledger, don't be evil, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Filter Bubble, Flynn Effect, gig economy, Google Glasses, Grace Hopper, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Inbox Zero, Internet of things, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jeff Bezos, Joan Didion, job automation, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, natural language processing, New Urbanism, one-China policy, optical character recognition, packet switching, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rodney Brooks, Rubik’s Cube, Sand Hill Road, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, SETI@home, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Skype, smart cities, South China Sea, sovereign wealth fund, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, superintelligent machines, surveillance capitalism, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, theory of mind, Tim Cook: Apple, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, uber lyft, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero day

And he hypothesized that language could be reduced to atomic concepts of math and science as part of a universal language translator.11 Do Mind and Machine Simply Follow an Algorithm? If Leibniz was correct—that humans were machines with souls and would someday invent soulless machines capable of untold, sophisticated thought—then there could be a binary class of machines on earth: us and them. But the debate had only started. In 1738, Jacques de Vaucanson, an artist and inventor, constructed a series of automata for the French Academy of Science that included a complex and lifelike duck. It not only imitated the motions of a live duck, flapping its wings and eating grain, but it could also mimic digestion. This offered the philosophers food for thought: If it looked like a duck, and quacked like a duck, was it really a duck?


New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind by Noam Chomsky

dark matter, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, theory of mind, Turing test

Focusing on language use, Descartes and his followers, notably Géraud de Cordemoy, outlined experimental tests for “other minds,” holding that if some object passes the hardest experiments I can devise to test whether it expresses and interprets new thoughts as I do, it would be “unreasonable” to doubt that it has a mind like mine. This is ordinary science, on a par with a litmus test for acidity. The project of machine simulation was actively pursued, but understood as a way to find out something about the world. The great artificer Jacques de Vaucanson did not seek to fool his audience into believing that his mechanical duck was digesting food, but rather to learn something about living things by construction of models, as is standard in the sciences. Contemporary debate contrasts rather unfavorably with the tradition, it would seem ( Jonathan Marshall 1989; see also Chomsky 1993a; for further comment and for more extensive discussion, see Chomsky 1966).


pages: 370 words: 107,983

Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All by Robert Elliott Smith

Ada Lovelace, affirmative action, AI winter, Alfred Russel Wallace, algorithmic bias, Amazon Mechanical Turk, animal electricity, autonomous vehicles, Black Swan, British Empire, cellular automata, citizen journalism, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, corporate personhood, correlation coefficient, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, desegregation, discovery of DNA, disinformation, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, Fellow of the Royal Society, feminist movement, Filter Bubble, Flash crash, Gerolamo Cardano, gig economy, Gödel, Escher, Bach, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, John Harrison: Longitude, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, low skilled workers, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, meta-analysis, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, new economy, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, p-value, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, performance metric, Pierre-Simon Laplace, precariat, profit maximization, profit motive, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, telemarketer, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Malthus, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, twin studies, Vilfredo Pareto, Von Neumann architecture, women in the workforce, Yochai Benkler

In fact, the guild was so strong that it influenced the denial of Lee’s second patent application by James I, which prompted Lee to leave England for France, where he ultimately died in distress at his failed efforts. It wasn’t until the eighteenth century that Lee’s idea of a mechanical knitting machine was revived in France, when in 1741 the talented inventor Jacques de Vaucanson was given the task of reforming the silk weaving industry, which was falling behind competitors in England and Scotland. The appointment must have seen as surprising to some, as up until that time Vaucanson was known for making automata. These mechanical simulations of animals and people had existed since ancient times, but up until Vaucanson’s innovations they were largely just toys, often made from precious metals and used as decorative amusements for the very wealthy.


pages: 392 words: 108,745

Talk to Me: How Voice Computing Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Think by James Vlahos

Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, augmented reality, Automated Insights, autonomous vehicles, backpropagation, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, cloud computing, Colossal Cave Adventure, computer age, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, information retrieval, Internet of things, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jeff Bezos, lateral thinking, Loebner Prize, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, natural language processing, PageRank, pattern recognition, Ponzi scheme, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, speech recognition, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!

So he wrote a program in the computer class that could automatically solve the cube. Cheyer, however, didn’t yet aspire to be a programmer when he grew up. His dream was to become a magician. He was entranced by illusions in which elaborately engineered mechanical objects came to life. He admired historic masters like the eighteenth-century French inventor Jacques de Vaucanson, whose creations included a duck that could flap its wings, eat, and defecate, and a flute-playing shepherd complete with air-blowing lungs, moveable lips, and fingers covered with synthetic skin. “He could have gone ahead and given his machine a soul,” remarked one awed person who saw the flutist.


pages: 419 words: 109,241

A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond by Daniel Susskind

3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, blue-collar work, British Empire, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, cloud computing, computer age, computer vision, computerized trading, creative destruction, David Graeber, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, demographic transition, deskilling, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, drone strike, Edward Glaeser, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial innovation, future of work, gig economy, Gini coefficient, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, income per capita, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Hargreaves, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Joi Ito, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, low skilled workers, lump of labour, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, Metcalfe’s law, natural language processing, Network effects, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, pink-collar, precariat, purchasing power parity, Ray Kurzweil, ride hailing / ride sharing, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Sam Altman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Snapchat, social intelligence, software is eating the world, sovereign wealth fund, spinning jenny, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, strong AI, telemarketer, The Future of Employment, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, the scientific method, The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, Travis Kalanick, Turing test, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, upwardly mobile, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We are the 99%, wealth creators, working poor, working-age population, Y Combinator

In the fifteenth century, Leonardo Da Vinci sketched out an autonomous cart and an armor-clad humanoid robot; he also designed a mechanical lion for the king of France, which, when whipped three times by his majesty, would open its chest to reveal the emblem of the monarchy.5 In the eighteenth century, a Frenchman called Jacques de Vaucanson became famous for his machines: one that could play the flute, another that could clatter tambourines in time, and—his most celebrated—a duck that could eat, drink, flap its wings, and defecate. Disappointingly, the so-called canard digérateur, or “digesting duck,” was not actually true to its name; a hidden compartment simply released a convincing alternative to the real thing (bread crumbs, dyed green).6 Swindles like this were amusingly frequent.


pages: 405 words: 117,219

In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence by George Zarkadakis

3D printing, Ada Lovelace, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, animal electricity, anthropic principle, Asperger Syndrome, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, British Empire, business process, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, continuous integration, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Snowden, epigenetics, Flash crash, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, index card, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kickstarter, liberal capitalism, lifelogging, millennium bug, Moravec's paradox, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, off grid, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, post-industrial society, prediction markets, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

The second idea comes from the study of logic, and the curious discovery that logic and mathematics are twins. Let’s look at these two ideas and how they became one. We saw how automata, imported from Byzantium and the Caliphate, became popular in Western Europe during the Renaissance. By the late 1700s the French inventor Jacques de Vaucanson (1709–1782) had designed and built the first automaton purportedly capable of digestion, the ‘digesting duck’: one could feed the mechanical duck with kernels of grain and the machine seemed to metabolise and discharge them through defecation. Many other inventors and engineers fashioned entertaining automata.


pages: 413 words: 119,587

Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots by John Markoff

"Robert Solow", A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, AI winter, airport security, Apple II, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, backpropagation, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bill Atkinson, Bill Duvall, bioinformatics, Brewster Kahle, Burning Man, call centre, cellular automata, Chris Urmson, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, collective bargaining, computer age, computer vision, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, DARPA: Urban Challenge, data acquisition, Dean Kamen, deskilling, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, future of work, Galaxy Zoo, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Grace Hopper, Gunnar Myrdal, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hacker Ethic, haute couture, Herbert Marcuse, hive mind, hypertext link, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invention of the wheel, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Conway, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, labor-force participation, loose coupling, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, medical residency, Menlo Park, Mitch Kapor, Mother of all demos, natural language processing, new economy, Norbert Wiener, PageRank, pattern recognition, pre–internet, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Stallman, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, Sand Hill Road, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, semantic web, Seymour Hersh, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, skunkworks, Skype, social software, speech recognition, stealth mode startup, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, telemarketer, telepresence, telepresence robot, Tenerife airport disaster, The Coming Technological Singularity, the medium is the message, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, zero-sum game

He had read books about the great magicians and thought of them as inventors and tinkerers who tricked others by using technology. Before he was ten he was saving his money to buy books and tricks from the local magic store. Later, he realized that his interest in artificial intelligence was rooted in his love of magic. His favorite eighteenth-century magicians and clockmakers led by Jacques de Vaucanson had built early automata: chess-playing and speaking machines and other mechanical humanoid robots that attempted to illuminate the inner workings of what he, like Gruber, would come to see as the most magical device of all—the human brain.3 Although Cheyer knew nothing of Engelbart’s legendary NLS, in 1987 he built his own system called HyperDoc while working as an artificial intelligence researcher with Bull, the aerospace firm, in France.


pages: 449 words: 129,511

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World by Simon Winchester

Albert Einstein, ASML, British Empire, business climate, Dava Sobel, discovery of the americas, Etonian, Fellow of the Royal Society, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, lateral thinking, lone genius, means of production, planetary scale, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Skype, trade route, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

Andrey Nartov, the Russian scientist who had the eighteenth-century title of personal craftsman to Tsar Peter the Great, was revered as the greatest teacher of lathe operation in Europe (and taught the methods to the then-king of Prussia) and is said to have made a working slide rest (and taken it to London to show it off) as early as 1718. And just in case the story from St. Petersburg has any doubters, a Frenchman named Jacques de Vaucanson quite provably made one in 1745. Chris Evans, a professor in North Carolina who has written extensively about the early years of precision engineering, notes the competing claims, and cautions against the “heroic inventor” treatment of the story. Far better to acknowledge, he says, that precision is a child of many parents, that its advances invariably overlap, that there are a great many indeterminate boundaries between the various disciplines to which the word precision can be attached, and that it was, in its early days, a phenomenon that evolved steadily over three centuries of ever-lessening bewilderment.


pages: 372 words: 152

The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin

banking crisis, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, blue-collar work, cashless society, collective bargaining, compensation consultant, computer age, deskilling, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, employer provided health coverage, Erik Brynjolfsson, full employment, future of work, general-purpose programming language, George Gilder, global village, Herbert Marcuse, hiring and firing, informal economy, interchangeable parts, invention of the telegraph, Jacques de Vaucanson, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, land reform, low skilled workers, means of production, new economy, New Urbanism, Paul Samuelson, pink-collar, post-industrial society, Productivity paradox, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, strikebreaker, technoutopianism, Thorstein Veblen, Toyota Production System, trade route, trickle-down economics, women in the workforce, working poor, working-age population, Works Progress Administration

Engineers built little mechanical boys who wrote Crossing into the High-Tech Frontier 63 out poems and prose, petite mechanical maidens who danced to music, and animals of every kind and description performing wondrous feats. The toys, which became a favorite of princes and kings, were toured and put on exhibition throughout Europe. The most elaborate of the automata were the brainchildren of a brilliant and imaginative French engineer, Jacques de Vaucanson. In 1738 Vaucanson amazed his fellow countrymen with the introduction of a fully automated flutist. The mechanized miniature of a human being "possessed lips that moved, a moving tongue that served as the airflow valve, and movable fingers whose leather tips opened and closed the stops of the flute."


pages: 542 words: 161,731

Alone Together by Sherry Turkle

Albert Einstein, Columbine, global village, Hacker Ethic, helicopter parent, Howard Rheingold, industrial robot, information retrieval, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jaron Lanier, Joan Didion, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, Loebner Prize, Marshall McLuhan, meta-analysis, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rodney Brooks, Skype, social intelligence, stem cell, technoutopianism, The Great Good Place, the medium is the message, the strength of weak ties, theory of mind, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Wall-E, women in the workforce, Year of Magical Thinking

Then, with seeming autonomy, AIBO raised its back leg to some suggestion of a hydrant. Then, it hesitated, a stroke of invention in itself, and lowered its head as though in shame. The audience gasped. The gesture, designed to play to the crowd, was wildly successful. I imagined how audiences responded to Jacques de Vaucanson’s eighteenth-century digesting (and defecating) mechanical duck and to the chess-playing automata that mesmerized Edgar Alan Poe. AIBO, like these, was applauded as a marvel, a wonder.1 Depending on how it is treated, an individual AIBO develops a distinct personality as it matures from a fall-down puppy to a grown-up dog.


pages: 687 words: 189,243

A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy by Joel Mokyr

"Robert Solow", Andrei Shleifer, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, business cycle, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Copley Medal, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, Deng Xiaoping, Edmond Halley, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, framing effect, germ theory of disease, Haber-Bosch Process, Herbert Marcuse, hindsight bias, income inequality, information asymmetry, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, land tenure, law of one price, Menlo Park, moveable type in China, new economy, phenotype, price stability, principal–agent problem, rent-seeking, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, South Sea Bubble, statistical model, survivorship bias, the market place, the strength of weak ties, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, ultimatum game, World Values Survey, Wunderkammern

Moreover, some of the more interesting “great inventors” of the age—starting with Newcomen and his assistant John Calley, the clockmaker John Harrison and the instrument maker James Watt—were skilled artisans themselves. Yet artisans, unless they were as unusually gifted and well educated as the brilliant inventor Jacques de Vaucanson (1709–1782) or the ingenious French armorer and inventor Edme Régnier (1751–1825), were good at making incremental improvements to existing processes, not in expanding the epistemic base of the techniques they used or applying state-of-the-art scientific knowledge to their craft. In other words, a purely artisanal knowledge society will not create a cluster of macroinventions that revolutionized production from the foundation.9 Artisans were also not well positioned to rely on the two processes of analogy and recombination, in which technology improves by adopting or imitating tricks and gimmicks from other, unrelated, activities.


pages: 1,048 words: 187,324

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton

anti-communist, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, centre right, Charles Lindbergh, colonial rule, Colonization of Mars, cosmic microwave background, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, double helix, East Village, Exxon Valdez, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Frank Gehry, germ theory of disease, Golden Gate Park, Google Earth, Haight Ashbury, horn antenna, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, index card, Jacques de Vaucanson, Kowloon Walled City, Louis Pasteur, low cost airline, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, mutually assured destruction, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, phenotype, Pluto: dwarf planet, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, Tunguska event, urban sprawl, Vesna Vulović, white picket fence, wikimedia commons, working poor

The cabinet beneath the chess board held a squashed chess master who made every move by candlelight, pulling levers to operate the Turk’s arm and keeping track of the moves on his or her own board. The Turk was nothing but an elaborate hoax. While the Turk was frustrating its opponents, genuine automatons delighted onlookers with their realistic movements. The Digesting Duck, the 1739 creation of Jacques de Vaucanson, flapped its wings, moved its head, ate grains, and shortly afterward defecated. The digestion process was not authentic—the duck’s backside housed a reservoir of droppings that would fall in response to the amount of grains being “eaten”—but it was the first step toward what de Vaucanson hoped would eventually be a genuine eating machine.


pages: 1,197 words: 304,245

The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, British Empire, clockwork universe, Commentariolus, commoditize, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, germ theory of disease, Google X / Alphabet X, Hans Lippershey, interchangeable parts, invention of gunpowder, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lateral thinking, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Philip Mirowski, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, social intelligence, spice trade, spinning jenny, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

But, of course, once animals have been claimed to be machines, it is a small step to arguing that human beings are also machines, and so to the adoption of a systematic materialism of a sort which would have been anathema to Gassendi, Descartes, Boyle and Newton. Julien Offray de La Mettrie’s Man the Machine (1748) is a logical development of this sort of uncompromising mechanistic thinking.24 The challenge set by Descartes was, of course, that of building an automaton that could behave like an animal. A hundred years later Jacques de Vaucanson (1709–82) made a mechanical duck which could walk, quack, eat and defecate.25 Descartes does not think of the universe as being like a clock because in his view outer space is filled not with the crystal spheres of Ptolemaic astronomy, nor with the gears and levers of de Caus’s machines, but with liquid vortices which carry the planets in their orbits around the stars.26 However, he does say that understanding the universe is comparable to the problem of understanding a clock.