A report by PwC estimated that 30% of current UK jobs, 35% of those in Germany, 38% in America (and 21% in Japan) are vulnerable to automation from AI and robotics by the early 2030s. My former colleague at The Times, Matt Ridley, is not worried, however. He is the self-styled “rational optimist”, after all. In a recent column he wrote that:
“The argument that artificial intelligence will cause mass unemployment is as unpersuasive as the argument that threshing machines, machine tools, dishwashers or computers would cause mass unemployment. These technologies simply free people to do other things and fulfil other needs.”
Nigel Cameron, editor of our technology section, is ready to accept that tomorrow’s new tech era may well create many new jobs for human beings – even, perhaps, more than we perform now but will soon be performed in whole or in part by increasingly sophisticated robots. What Nigel acknowledges he doesn’t know, however, is how long it will take for those new jobs to arrive… and, even if our children benefit from this revolution with potentially cleaner and safer forms of work, will their parents in disappearing jobs face an extended period of unemployment…? And how should government prepare for this new world? Nigel fears that big investments in STEM education might be sensible for many reasons but won’t sustain much labour-intensive economic activity and therefore not solve the coming jobs challenge.
The economist John Maynard Keynes defined this “technological unemployment” nearly a century ago; joblessness “due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.”
In the short five minute presentation below, Nigel Cameron summarises the arguments of his new book, “Will Robots Take Your Job?” Order your copy here.
On Monday, we published a similar audio summary of Henry Olsen’s new book – and the lessons of Reagan and Thatcher’s political successes for today.