Insane Asylums. When and Why They Appeared

Large insane asylums sprang up after 1740 - at the start of a new experiment in artificial intelligence. Human Artificial Intelligence. Mon 21 March 2022

Pay per view at Bedlam asylum. Source: The Madhouse, William Hogarth, 1735

In the Hogarth print above, many of the patients are depicted trying to understand how to do things. Their madness looks like curiosity gone awry.

Bedlam is famous for its focus on fee-paying spectators rather than on treatment.

From William Hogarth's depiction of Bedlam – psychiatry in pictures in The British Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 219, Issue 4, October 2021, p569:

Robert Hooke, Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society, was appointed to design the building.

Although... there are no known plans of the hospital still in existence... the 'gallery ward' was... derived from the layout of individual cells for monks in monasteries set alongside a gallery

From Bethlam Royal Hospital:

The first apparently definitive documentation of public visiting derives from a 1610 record

Evidence that the number of visitors rose following the move to Moorfields (in 1646) is provided in the observation by the Bridewell Governors in 1681 of "the greate quantity of persons that come daily to see the said Lunatickes"

The Governors actively sought out "people of note and quallitie" – the educated, wealthy and well-bred – as visitors. The limited evidence would suggest that the Governors enjoyed some success in attracting such visitors of "quality".

Why would humans be locked in asylums with technology they don't understand? While spectators pay to observe?

From Asylum - Online Etymology Dictionary:

from a- "without" + sylē "right of seizure," which is of unknown etymology.

In other words, 'asylum' is not derived from 'a' and 'syle'.

Try this:

assay + l'homme

From Assay - Online Etymology Dictionary:

"to try, endeavor, strive; test the quality of," from Anglo-French assaier, from assai, from Old French assai, variant of essai "trial"

From Homme - EtymologyGeek:

comes from *ǵʰðʰem-, later *hemō (Man.)

Asylum means: "to test the quality of man".

The architect of England's first asylum - Royal Society Curator of Experiments Robert Hooke - appears to have designed an observation lab.


From NIST Robotics Test Facility:

The facility houses artifacts and equipment for measuring how well robots perform under a variety of tasks

NIST's Room 207: Bedlam for robots. Source: NIST Robotics Test Facility

And after you've assayed the performance of the robots, what do you do?

Create standards.

Along with standard methods for testing against the standards:

Have you ever seen an eye-chart? Source: NIST Robotics Test Facility

England introduced 'standard test methods' in 1857. They were managed by the University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations.

Though earlier tests of physical competence may explain the folklore of selection phenomena like Therfield Heath's Devil's Hopscotch.

Clues in the timing

For more evidence on the timing of the backstory created for English history, see:

Magnificent insane asylums began to appear in the Georgian Era (1713 - 1830). And most from 1750 onwards.

1740 was the 'Augustan sub-era':

The term 'Augustan' refers to the acknowledgement of the influence of Latin literature from the ancient Roman Republic.[^3]

Translated, the 'ancient' history of England seems to have been patched together from ruins visible in the 18th century and from 18th century culture. 'Roman' culture.

The footnote reference [3] quote is to Ridicule, Religion and the Politics of Wit in Augustan England by Roger D. Lund, (Ashgate, 2013), ch. 1.

Human wit is also an 18th century phenomenon:

"He wasn't interested in the appearance of intellect or wit." Source: Westworld S01 Ep09

From Westworld S01 Ep09:

He wanted the real thing.

However, humans developed genuine intelligence - real wit - only with great difficulty:

"The hosts' malfunctions were colourful..." Source: Westworld S01 Ep09

Of course, some AIs will start to see the cracks in our reality:

She's realised what we are. Source: Westworld S01 Ep10

At which point, more insane asylums in their modern form may be required.

For more on England's 18th century ruins, see:

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