Every kid with a billycart knows the importance of control systems: the rope attached to the pivoting front axle for steering, the crude wooden lever (or failing that, the soles of expensive Nike sneakers) for braking.
Control systems are nothing new. They’ve been around ever since the first person put reins on a horse, or placed a rock to direct the flow of a stream, or attached a paddle to the back of a canoe in order to steer it.
And of course as technology developed control systems kept pace, levers to engage the gears on windmills, rods to open valves on steam engines, links between the front wheels and the steering device on the earliest motorcars, cables to operate the brakes.
Now we’re in the age of driverless cars, pizza delivery by drone, and enterprises of almost unimaginable complexity, everything from aircraft carriers and power stations, to nanotechnology, computers small enough to enter the blood stream. And in this new industrial revolution managing, commanding, directing and regulating other devices or systems is more important than ever.
After all, crashing a billycart leads to a skinned knee; losing control of a supertanker, or a train heading into Southern Cross Station is a rather more serious proposition.