Islamic Automation: Al-Jazari’s Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices

In the following essay, Dr. Gunalan Nadarajan, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies in the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State University, draws on the work of al-Jazari, the famous 13th century Islamic scholar, engineer and scientist, to develop an alternative history of robotics. The work of Al-Jazari is considered as a significant contribution to the history of robotics and automation insofar as it enables a critical re-evaluation of classical notions and the conventional history of automation and therefore of robotics. In his analysis, the author details the notion of “Islamic automation”, where the notions of control that have informed the conventional history of automation and robotics are substituted by subordination and submission to the rhythms of the machines.