Originally Posted by DWFII
To begin with, I think you do the Antikythera Mechanism a great injustice. While I have been aware of it for some time, it wasn't until I saw a very recent Discovery Channel (?) feature that I understood how complex and how difficult ...and how precise...it really was. And if you read the post you linked to again, I think you will discover that esp. in the case of the Antikythera Mechanism I was contrasting the precision that it emboddied with a contemporary Seiko. This in response to the (I think mistaken) assertion that the level of precison embodied in the Seiko would be impossible to reproduce using handwork alone. The Antikythera Mechanism had an incredible number of gears--the teeth of which had to be cut by hand and by eye alone, to a standard of precisison that may rival if not surpass a modern day Seiko. Had that level of precision not been attained, the mechanism simply would not have worked.
The Antikythera Mechanism is indeed complex, but then it was trying to compute the positions and phases of the moon, probably those of the planets, and definitely lunar and solar eclipses. It apparently did a good job of this, mostly because it was a realization of Hipparchos (2nd Century BC) model of lunar positions- the basic problem is that the moon orbits the Earth in the plane of the solar system instead of around the Earth's equator. It was Hellenistic high tech, just as Intel cpu's are modern era high-tech- directly comparable. It was precise, sure, perhaps more so than 15th century European clockmaker work but only because the latter had a lot more experience with gears. If I recall correctly, the Antikythera mechanism worked with equilateral triangle gear teeth- which have to be precise to work. The Europeans had figured out rounded teeth are just easier to make and to make work. The reason it is so cool is that the Antikythera mechanism directly implements a mathematical model for the lunar position using a geared computer. It was probably not till the time of Newton that the Europeans could surpass it in theory, though as artisans the clockmakers probably could have duplicated it, with mechanical improvements, a couple of hundred years earlier.
I was not referring to the ruins at Machu Pichu but rather the ruins of Puma Punku. I did not remember the name at the time of my original post. There is a striking difference in the precision of the stone work at Puma Punku as compared with the stone work at Machu Pichu and the ruins at Puma Punku are,f I understand correctly, millenia older.
This is a complex new to me, thanks- I'll go read about it. Nonetheless, I'll stand by my position that a statement like "precision that scientists today would have a hard time duplicating the results with laser beams." is hyperbole unless one is talking about a first year graduate student armed with a laser pointer and a hand drill.
Now all of this is facinating but in the end is a bit shy of the point...which is that for all the glitter, industrialization has not brought any significant increase in quality to the ojects that we produce and surround ourselves with.
Like Srivats, I have a hard time with this. If one were a Roman general plundering the wealth of Rhodes, then yes, the handwork of the Ancients was likely lovely and his (always a he) house would have been much nicer than mine, not least because of the Greek slaves manning the building. If one were the median citizen of the Roman Republic of the time one would certainly find that my middle class American house is filled with finer things. I can afford them because mass production has made them cheap and made it possible for me to make enough money to afford them.
But one might equally suggest that it is a ""melding of heart, hand, and motive (or perhaps purpose.) ...esp. if we let the "factory mentality" that I talk about blind us to the essential fact that "quality" only has meaning in the human context.
This is sense, and an admirable position. I would like to see you expand on this.
For myself, I think of all factory made goods as "techno-glitter for modern magpies." And make no mistake, I have my own stash of shiny objects of questionable value.
Yes, we have too much "stuff" and most of it is -meant- to be expendable. Christmas lights come to mind. There must be a better way.
Oh, "mass artisanal production" is an old and truly hoary concept. And it worked fine...as far as it went.
It ended in 17th century Europe, later in other parts of the world. It ended because the things it made were too expensive, and the process of allowing more people to possess nicer things caused the end of repressive autocratic regimes catering to hereditary aristocratic elites. Whether a new version can be made to work in the time of democracy and a wide spread middle class is an open question.