I'm trying to understand the relationship of humans and automation, historically and culturally.

I ask because the waterclock is generally considered the earliest form of automation, but snares and deadfall traps constitute simple switch mechanisms.

(They are single use without human-powered reset, but seem to qualify as machines. The bent sapling that powers the snare is referred to as the engine, which is "a machine with moving parts that converts power into motion.")

If snares and traps are a form of automation, automation has been with us longer, potentially, than civilization.

  • Are simple animal traps a form of automation or computation?

simple snare for trapping small animals
How to make a simple snare (the Ready Store)

Paiute Deadfall Trap
Paiute Deadfall Trap (Homestead Telegraph)


1 Answer 1

  • Absolutely these traps and snares are a form of automation.

They take a task--harvesting small animals--which was traditionally done by hunting them, and make the process automatic. The mechanism requires a human to set up, but its function is automatic. This is to say that the mechanism operates without human involvement.

  • Absolutely this is a form of computation.

As DuttaA observed, these machines utilize a simple "IF/THEN" statement. In the case of the snare:

IF the hook is displaced from the base, THEN the sapling straightens

These simple machines will also return True or False:

TRUE: The trap catches an animal
FALSE: The trap is sprung but empty

The small animals are the input and, potentially, the output, depending on whether the mechanism returns "true".

(The use of "true" has historically included phrases such as "their aim was true" in the sense of shooting an arrow or throwing a spear.)


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