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Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation epub ebook

by David F. Noble

Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation epub ebook

Author: David F. Noble
Category: Engineering
Language: English
Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 25, 1986)
Pages: 427 pages
ISBN: 0195040465
ISBN13: 978-0195040463
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 689
Other formats: mbr lit txt lrf

David F. Noble is professor in the department of social and political thought at York University and is best known for his work on the social history of automation. He was the co-founder (with Ralph Nader and Al Meyerhoff) of National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest

David F. He was the co-founder (with Ralph Nader and Al Meyerhoff) of National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest. He is also the author of numerous books including Beyond the Promised Land, Digital Diploma Mills, and The Religion of Technology.

Forces of Production book.

Noble, David F. Publication date. Machine-tools, Automation, Technology, Automatización, Tecnología, Machines-outils, Automatisation, Technologie, Automatisering, Sociale aspecten. Books for People with Print Disabilities. Internet Archive Books. Uploaded by sf-loadersive. org on June 26, 2009. SIMILAR ITEMS (based on metadata).

David F.

David Franklin Noble (July 22, 1945 – December 27, 2010) was a critical historian of technology, science and education, best known for his seminal work on the social history of automation. In his final years he taught in the Division of Social Science, and the department of Social and Political Thought at York University in Toronto, Canada. Noble held positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Smithsonian Institution, and Drexel University, as well as many visiting professorships.

Forces of Production .

Focusing on the design and implementation of computer-based automatic machine tools, David F. Noble challenges the idea that technology has a life of its own. Technology has been both a convenient scapegoat and a universal solution, serving to disarm critics, divert attention, depoliticize debate, and dismiss discussion of the fundamental antagonisms and inequalities that continue to beset America

Noble demonstrates that engineering design is influenced by political, economic, managerial, and .

Noble demonstrates that engineering design is influenced by political, economic, managerial, and sociological considerations, while the deployment of d by a detailed case history of a large General Electric plant in Massachusetts-can become entangled with such matters as labor classification, shop organization, managerial responsibility, and patterns of authority. In its examination of technology as a human, social process, Forces of Production is a path-breaking contribution to the understanding of this phenomenon in American society.

Focusing on the postwar automation of the American metal-working industry--the heart of the modern industrial economy--this is a provocative study of how automation has assumed a critical role in America. David Noble argues that industrial automation--more than merely a technological advance--is a social process that reflects very real divisions and pressures within our society. The book explains how technology is often spurred and shaped by the military, corporations, universities, and other mighty institutions. Using detailed case studies, Noble also demonstrates how engineering design is influenced by political, economic, and sociological considerations, and how the deployment of equipment is frequently entangled with certain managerial concerns.
Reviews (5)
"Forces of Production" was published in 1984 and leaves off with NC/CNC as it was in the 1970's. By then NC (Numerical Control) had transitioned to computer circuits and software and thus, the name CNC for Computer Numerical Control.

In its inception in the early 1950's it is likely that the professors and graduate students of M.I.T.'s Servo Mechanisms Laboratory named it Numerical Control because they envisioned a broader concept of social control via digital means. NC/CNC turned out not to be the path to this end; the path has been through the PC and the WWW. In view of this, I have argued that the technology should be called NDI for numerically directed interpolation because this is what it does. It directs a cutting tool to interpolate a path in the work envelop of the machine.

The book could have done better in defining interpolation - you did interpolation in kindergarten when you connected the dots in sequential order with straight lines to reveal a figure. It could have done better in explaining how Cartesian (geometric) information is processed into setpoints to position servos to cause the tool to interpolate a path in the work envelope of the machine. This explanation is central to understanding the difference between John Parson's by-the-numbers positioning concept and the much more sophisticated interpolation technology developed by M.I.T.

Our most current CNC is provisioned with spline algorithms that interpolate a curve from Cartesian points. The algorithms render curves as sequences of piecewise continuous parametric polynomials and these polynomials are sampled on a time grid to issue setpoints to position servos. This sampling of a function - called the interpolant - is what most CNC workers mean when they point to the CNC and say, "That thing interpolates." The ability of contemporary CNC to sample polynomial interpolants is what enables commercially affordable CNC to keep up with data requirements of servo platforms that are 20 times more dynamic than when Forces of Production was first published.

As I have already said, "Forces of Production" leaves off with NC/CNC as it was in the late 1970's when the U.S. machine tool industry was on the threshold of collapse and the center of CNC development was emerging in Japan with its emphasis on reliability, friendliness and standard machines ready for immediate delivery to U.S. job shops. Today the leading CNC development is in Germany. The world market for vender CNC - CNC produced to be sold to machine tool builders - is an oligopoly of two, Siemens of Germany and Fanuc of Japan. Siemens dominates in large, high-end and special machines; Fanuc in simpler mid to low-end machines. These are fluid boundaries. High end and special machines can be done with Fanuc, just not as elegantly as with Siemens, and in recent years, Siemens has made a determined push into the low end.

With regards to contemporary CNC and "class struggle", we have "teach" CNC with strong elements of record/playback, we have symbolic programming (conversation programming) in which machining operations are programmed by the operator at the machine, we have the traditional tool path Cartesian programming with CAD/CAM/CNC where the programmer works in an acoustically isolated, air conditioned front office and the operator is at the machine.

However, even with CAD/CAM/CNC, the CNC is provisioned with a powerful HMI (Human/Machine Interface) that allows the operator to assert his will on the machining process for him to establish a rapport with the workpiece. How much decision making is left to the operator is a continuum between all and none that is worked out between the operator and the programmer. The massive functionality of contemporary CNC - sometimes referred to as "Open System CNC" - allows an operator or programmer with an engineer mindset to produce software (cycles and asynchronous subroutines) to so finely tailor the machine to the shop's processes that over time the operator of a given machine is less and less burdened with decisions that can be done with automation. The significance of this is that the development is at the user level, and given that documentation is available on line, a smart operator can make a profound difference in developing the productivity of his CNC machine and usually under the radar of management.

"Class struggle" is still active and I suspect that Dr. Nobel, were he still with us, would find most interesting the developments from roughly the mid 1990's that address global, multinational production. This includes such CNC features as b-spline algorithms that unite CNC with the geometry of CAD, real time kinematics transformations for 5-axis aerospace machining (and not just aerospace), kinematics independent specification of orientation (orientation with unit vectors), relational tool data bases in which tool name/number and its geometry is synchronized as a property of the machine, world wide tool management, HMI in all the world's major languages and e-services for monitor, diagnose and repair, to mention just a few. Boeing flew with some of these developments (to some degree) and their experience with the Dreamliner would be a fascinating volume II to the work that Dr. Nobel began.

That science and technology are accepted as forces that improve life is a central precept of American culture but in Forces of Production, Noble argues against the notion of technological determinism as a bell weather of progress. Noble's is a Marxist critique: if workers see progress as inevitable and automatic, it "absolves...[them] of responsibility to change it and weds them instead to the technological projections of those in command."(xiii) Unless control is redirect away from "technical enthusiasts" and "neo-progressive politicians,"(353), he is skeptical of what the second industrial revolution portends for society and what advantage technology holds for the future. In making his point Noble analyzes the development of numerically controlled (N/C) machine tools in the post WWII era.

Wartime necessity and the subsequent Cold War centralized research and development into what became known as the military-industrial complex. In Part I of his volume, titled "Command and Control," Noble argues that scientists lost their sense of independence and came to "resemble closely their military and corporate brethren."(20) Labor, as a component of the production matrix, was changed as well by a defense establishment which emphasized performance over cost to counter the (Noble would say perceived) Soviet threat. Increased union membership during the war augmented labor's power and heightened labor/management conflict on the machine shop floor.

Who controlled the shop; who controlled the pace of production? Automation, on the one hand, seemed to offer management a means of maintaining control, but labor saw this as a threat to their jobs. Scientist and engineers, more closely allied with those having social power, were predisposed to adhere to the wishes of their patrons, rather than shop stewards, to help make the automatic factory possible.

Noble presents various methods of N/C and explains how the "Darwinian" potential of N/C was stymied when John T. Parson's N/C project was co-opted by MIT in close alliance with the Air Force. The record-playback (R/P) option may have been easier to program and more accurate in that it captured a machinists skill, but it would have "lent itself to programming on the shop floor, and worker and/or union control of the process."(151) This was unacceptable to managers who wanted to maintain control and keep decision making off the floor. The prevailing cultural thus had more influence in developing N/C than did technical or economic needs. The Automatically Programmed Tools (APT) system that was developed, while sophisticated was expensive. None-the-less it became the industry standard.

Noble challenges the ideology of technology as the key to social and human progress. Instead he sees a system of political, moral, and cultural "domination which masks as progress."(351). Indeed, it is Noble's social interpretation of technology that is the major contribution of the book. Unfortunately what also is apparent is his omission of any comparison to the Soviet system and thus his argument is degraded as more of an attack on capitalism than a sincere effort to clarify the role of society in technology. Regardless of this shortcoming, by questioning the relationship of society to technology, Forces of Production challenges the idea of technological determinism in defining the meaning of progress.

" This is not a book about American technology, but about American technology" so Noble began this important book in 1984 when computerization had truly taken hold of American life, and when unemployment was high in the United States. Now, in 2012 Noble's predictions have come to fruition. Management is not interested in preserving meaningful jobs, but in continuing Taylor's techniues of subdividing tasks and ultimately when machines can take over, eliminating the human element altogether, much as has happened in agriculture.

There is much valuable material here. Noble emphasizes the role the military industrial complex played in achieving these ends. His conclusion is that as early as the middle eighties the U.S., in fact the world, was already faced with structual unemployment, with no solution to unemployment in sight.

An excellent book.

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