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What made this heady explosion in domestic appliances possible? It was this thing, the fractional horsepower motor.

Before electricity and factories, horsepower looked like, well, horses and factories. Factories with really, really big motors, ones equivalent in many, many horses.

But then small motors like this one came along. And with electrification in around 1915, along came washing machines, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners… all kinds of appliances.

By 1920, there were a half million fractional horsepower motors powering small appliances in America.

An explosion!

This is what we’re seeing now: an explosion in the technologies of artificial intelligence and robotics that means that the most interesting things are happening in the home, in everyday products that show up in the Argos catalogue instead of in research labs and factories.

Maybe we call it something like fractional artificial intelligence.

So let’s have a look at a few weird-but-normal effects of these technologies.

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March 28, 2012

Botworld is a talk on domestic artificial intelligence, from February 2011.