Author Henry Hazlitt makes an interesting differentiation between types of automation that is entirely pertinent to what some are calling “the Fourth Industrial Revolution,’ i.e., the predicted revolution in robotics artificial intelligence, the differentiation being:
1. Automation of a task previously done manually ("labour saving")
2. Automation of a task inherently impossible to humans ("possible-making")
3. Automation of a task via usage of superior materials ("quality improving")
4. Automation of tasks via breaking into contexts formerly unknown or inaccessible ("integrating")
(NB: The expansion and the terms in brackets were chosen by online commentator Felix Mueller.)
Hazlitt’s original quote is here:
"Not all inventions and discoveries, of course, are “labour-saving” machines. Some of them, like precision instruments, like nylon, lucite, plywood, and plastics of all kinds, simply improve the quality of products. Others, like the telephone or the airplane, perform operations that direct human labour could not perform at all. Still others bring into existence objects and services, such as X-rays, radios, and synthetic rubber, that would otherwise not even exist."