From Early Trade and Communication Networks to the Internet, the Internet of Things and the Global Intelligent Machine (GIM)

Teun Koetsier
2019 Advances in Historical Studies  
The present paper offers a sketch of the history of networks from the Stone Age until the present. I argue that man is a creator of networks, a homo reticulorum. Over the course of time more and more networks were created and they have become increasingly technologized. It seems inevitable that they will all be incorporated in the successor of the Internet of Things, the Global Intelligent Machine (GIM). Advances in Historical Studies Industrial Revolution in the 18th century the pace of
more » ... ion accelerated. In the 20th century the mechanization of production and information processing became increasingly sophisticated. Robots appeared. They are hybrid machines, combinations of a production machine and a computer. In the last decades of the 20 th century a new kind of information machine was introduced, the Internet. The Internet has now been connected to billions of sensors and has become the Internet of Things (IoT). The next step is that the IoT becomes what I call GIM, the Global Intelligent Machine. The IoT will be connected to more and more production machinery and will become a huge intelligent global machine that not only collects, stores, and processes information but also physically intervenes in the world. The result is GIM, a huge global robotic machine, a combination of production machinery and information machinery. In the future it may very well encompass all machinery on the globe. The core of GIM is the Internet, a global information network. The Internet and GIM are also expressions of a third aspect of our species that deserves attention, next to the fact that we are creatures that physically interact with nature and process information. We create networks. We are not only a homo faber and a homo loquens, but a homo reticulorum as well, a creator of networks. In general a network consists of nodes and connections between them. The nodes can be many things, for example, individuals, computers or locations in space. The connections are all possible lines of communication or transfer of individuals or goods. Usually networks look somewhat like fishing nets, but we will also include borderline cases without branches, that look like a rope with a few knots in it. Traditionally the application of production tools and machines is called mechanization. I will use the word technologization to cover both the application of production and information tools and machines. This paper considers the rise of GIM from the point of view of the history of the technologization of networks. The technologization can concern all aspects of a network: the nodes, the connections, the means of transportation and the loads that are transported. The etymological online dictionary ( says that a network was originally (1550s) a net-like arrangement of wires. Only after 1839 the word started to be used for transportation networks in reference to rivers, roads and rails. The meaning broadcasting system is from 1914 and after 1947 it started to mean also an interconnected group of people. There are many studies on the history of transportation, radio and television, but I have not been able to find any historical study of networks in general. The present paper seems to fill a gap. Early Networks, the Movement of Goods and People The early hunters and gatherers lived in small groups in Africa, forming their small mobile communication and transportation networks of which the group members were the nodes. At a certain moment these groups became parts of bigger networks in which the groups were connected by trade relations. This T. Koetsier
doi:10.4236/ahs.2019.81001 fatcat:3zswhahseba2lg6zdmnkpmhs24