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Body movement and the brain

Making a Voluntary Movement

Help Link : La Révolution Industrielle Link : A trip to the past Link : Avez-vous un métier ?
History : The Industrial Revolution (1700 - Present)
Original modules
Tool Module : The Hand The Hand
History Module : Hominization, or The History of the Human Lineage   Hominization, or The History of the Human Lineage

In olden times, each individual artisan was responsible for the entire product of his or her work. People's work made sense, because it included every step from designing an object to manufacturing it, and often the same person who made an object was the one who used it.

The automation of production in factories has allowed part of the artisan's dexterity and experience to be transferred to machines. But this change has also made each individual's work more monotonous. Unskilled workers who simply operate machines may feel that they are nothing more than replaceable parts, just like the things they are manufacturing.


Human beings, like all other organisms, have evolved to adapt to their environment. Unquestionably one of the most remarkable adaptations that our species has made is the human hand, which can perform extremely precise movements upon receiving the appropriate commands from the motor cortex.

It was the human hand that enabled people to fashion the first stone tools over 2 million years ago. Most of the tools that humans developed later on served basically to amplify or extend the actions of the hand. For example, a pair of tongs extends the action of grasping, a hammer that of striking, a screwdriver that of turning, and so on.


Thus the various technologies that emerged as the result of toolmaking and made the lives of our hunter-gatherer ancestors easier were the direct result of the human ability to imagine an action and then execute it.

The same is true of the agriculture revolution of the Neolithic period, which enabled the transition from a nomadic society to a sedentary, agrarian society and hence to the emergence of larger social groups and various types of skilled artisans.

The industrial revolution—the transition from a society based on agriculture to one based on mechanized production—was the other great revolution in human history. Industrialization, which began in the various countries of northern Europe and North America between 1750 and 1900, caused urbanization to accelerate.

Factory labour was recruited largely among immigrants, as well as among peasants who were tired of living on the farm and were attracted to the big cities. But these pools of labour did not have any special technical training.

Such unskilled labourers could not always adapt very easily to the demands of industrial production. To solve some of these problems of worker adaptation, an engineer named Frederick Taylor attempted to systematize the organization of factory work.

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