Sir Leon Bagrit – The Age of Automation

The process of automation started many years ago. There were debates and lectures about the increased technological development in computing and how it changed the world we lived in. We are going to share with you  a fragment  of a lecture by Sir Leon Bagrit. The lecture is from 1964, however, many of his ideas can be recognized even nowadays. Sir Leon Bagrit was a peoneer of automation and a leading industrialist in Britain. He predicted many features that are in developing today, so we can say that his company was a company of the tomorrow in his time. Let us read his outstanding ideas and enjoy in them.

“Science and technology have come to pervade every aspect of our lives and, as a result, society is changing at a speed which is quite unprecedented. There is a great technological explosion around us, generated by science. This explosion is already freeing vast numbers of people from their traditional bondage to nature, and now at last we have it in our power to free mankind once and for all from the fear which is based on want. Now, for the first time, man can reasonably begin to think that life can be something more than a grim struggle for survival. But even today, in spite of the high standard of living which has become general in the more fortunate West, the majority of people in the world still spend nearly all their time and energy in a never-ending struggle with nature to secure the food and shelter they need. Even in this elementary effort millions of human beings each year die unnecessarily and wastefully from hunger, disease, or flood.

Yet, in the West, science and technology have made it possible for us to have a plentiful supply of food, produced by only a fraction of the labour that was necessary even a few decades ago. In the United States, for instance, one man on the land produces more than enough food to feed fifteen men in the cities, and, in fact, there is a surplus of food grown even by this small proportion of the American labour force. We have considerably extended our expectation of life. We have enriched our lives by creating physical mobility through the motor-car, the jet aeroplane, and other means of mechanical transport; and we have added to our intellectual mobility by the telephone, radio, and television. Not content with these advances, we are now thrusting forward the stars, and the conquest of space no longer strikes us as Wellsian or Jules Vernian. And with the advent of the new phase of technology we call automation, we have the promise both of greater leisure and of even greater material and intellectual riches.

But this is not inevitable. It depends on automation being adequately exploited. We shall need to apply our scientific and technological resources to literally every aspect of our society, to our commerce, our industry, our medicine, our agriculture, our transportation.

It is fascinating and encouraging to observe the development of  this immense process, a process in which man appears all the time to be engaged in the act of creating an extension of himself. In his new technological successes this appears particularly true. He is extending his eyes with radar; his tongue and his ear through telecommunications; his muscle and body structure through mechanization. He extends his own energies by the generation and transmission of power and his nervous system and his thinking and decision-making faculties through automation. If this observation is accurate, as I believe it is, the implications are far-reaching. It might be reasonable to conclude that the direction of modern science and technology is towards the creation of a series of machine-systems based on man as a model. “

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