Most of my research right now is about the evolution of technologies. They go from crafts, requiring skilled experts, to “engineering science,” i.e. mostly automated and very precise. For example, firearms manufacturing took 200 years to undergo this shift. Flying took about 100 years to go from the Wright Brothers, to autonomous aircraft (not just unmanned, but self-directed). How does this happen? Is it a good thing?
Here is a talk I gave on this topic. (Caution: 5 MB PDF file) The subtitle is Why old tasks get easier, but everything gets more complex.
I’m working on a book on this subject, which does side-by-side comparisons of:
- Medical care – several kinds
- Firearms manufacturing (from Napoleon to 1980)
- Semiconductor manufacturing
Each of them has undergone major transformations, with similar patterns.