Talk:Advanced closed-loop automation/Old
Advanced closed loop automation envisioned here is the automation of industrial processes to the point where they are able to work indefinitely without any low level human involvement, given a constant supply of necessary materials and energy. Indefinite running requires that these systems have the ability to self-maintain and repair, for all but the most catastrophic situations.
Machines maintaining machines
At the moment industrial automation can only go so far, because most equipment and machinery today is designed to be repaired, maintained and monitored by people. This means that creating automated repair systems for servicing existing equipment a very difficult problem for all but the most trivial of maintenance tasks.
To enable equipment repair by robot, machines will have to be designed with autonomous servicability in mind from the outset:
- All components, or at least all sub-assemblies, will have to have diagnostics and communication components built-in enabling the most minor problem to be detected and pin-pointed automatically.
- All physical components will have to be designed to be easily accessible by repair robot. Bolts, screws, servos, pivots, motors, hydraulics, pumps, gears, wiring, seals and PCBs all have to be easily removable and modular - many assemblies perhaps being in a cartridge arrangment. Initially, this is likely to have the effect of making some equipment slightly more bulky than current man-maintained designs, but the advantages are clear.
Because each part of the system is ultimately controllable and configurable it means we will have far more flexibility and richness of diversity of production than we currently have. Each item produced could be customized to its recipients requirements.
Automated assembly of industrial plants
Having the machinery designed in this manner also lends itself to new industrial plants being automatically constructed and assembled. So an efficient plant, designed and used in one location could easily be duplicated and assembled in another with very little effort.
The concept of advanced closed-loop automation taken to the extreme would be a totally automated economy. If all main industries such as:
- Material processing
- Component and product manufacture
- Power generation
- Agriculture and food processing
- Transport infrastructure
are all designed using the principles mentioned above, it would be possible for modern society to banish scarcity of any significant kind worldwide. We already have the technical capability to make this possible already.
Where people fit in
Totally automating large scale industrial processes and manufactguring allows production to be as efficient as possible and it also removes people from what is boring and potentially dangerous work. There are far more interesting things to do than to work in factory all one's life. Unfortunately at this moment in time a lot of people in this position do not necessarily have an alternative. It makes sense to have machines doing repetitive tasks and freeing up people to do the things they are good at and happy doing.
Human control of these systems at the top-level is obviously extremely important. Some might say that these systems may get so complex, and human so lazy, that eventually no-one will understand how these advanced autonomous systems work. I think it is realistic to say that there will always be people interested in the technical details of these systems and also the statistics of what is actually produced, the efficiencies and reasoning. For the same reasons it is also likely to remain to be people who carry on designing and optimising these systems. We like to be involved in these things and it is important that we continue to be so.
- Self-replicating machine page in Wikipedia for further information on some related topics.