Earlier this week, the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, gave a warning that the UK needs a skills revolution as up to 15 million jobs in Britain are at stake. This is apparently due to a “third machine age” where Artificial Intelligence is making a huge number of jobs that were previously the preserve of humans outdated.
Haldane says that this potential “Fourth Industrial Revolution” could cause disruptions on a “much greater scale” than the damage experienced during the first three Industrial Revolutions. This is because the first three industrial revolutions were mainly about machines replacing humans doing manual tasks. But, the fourth Industrial revolution will be different. As Haldane told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “the 20th-century machines have substituted not just for manual human tasks, but cognitive ones too — human skills machines could reproduce, at lower cost, has both widened and deepened”.
With robots becoming more intelligent, there will be deeper degrees of hollowing-out of jobs in this revolution than in the past. The Bank of England has classified jobs into three categories –jobs with a high (greater than 66%), medium (33-66%) and low (less than 33%) chances of automation. Administrative, clerical and production jobs are at the highest risk of getting replaced by Robots. Whereas, jobs focussing on human interaction, face-to-face conversation, and negotiation are less likely to suffer.
This “hollowing out” poses risk not only for low-paid jobs but will also affect the mid-level jobs.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Artificial Intelligence Council Chair, Tabitha Goldstaub, mentioned that the “challenge will be ensuring that people are prepared for the cultural and economic shifts” with focus on creating “the new jobs of the future” in order to avoid mass replacement by robots.
Haldane echoed Goldstaub’s sentiments and told the BBC that “we will need even greater numbers of new jobs to be created in the future if we are not to suffer this longer-term feature called technological unemployment”.
Every cloud has a silver lining
Although the automation of these tasks can lead to mass unemployment, Goldstaub is positive. She says “there are great opportunities ahead as well as significant challenges”. Challenge being bracing the UK workforce for the coming change.
Whereas, the silver lining, according to Goldstaub is that “there is a hopeful view — that a lot of these jobs (existing) are boring, mundane, unsafe, drudgery – there could be — liberation from — these jobs and a move towards a brighter world.”