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Scale of skills challenge from AI to overshadow Victorian industrial revolution

  • 20/08/2018
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The Bank of England’s chief economist has warned ‘large swathes’ of people will become technologically obsolete as artificial intelligence ‘hollows out’ the jobs market.

On Radio Four, Andy Haldane said the possible disruption of what could be known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution could be “on a much greater scale” than anything felt during the first of the Victorian era.

Haldane said we are already seeing rising inequality, social tension and many people struggling to make a living.

It was important to learn the “lessons of history”, he argued, to make sure people are being given the training to rise to the challenges of a transforming jobs market.

The new head of the government’s advisory council on artificial intelligence, Tabitha Goldstaub echoed these warnings over the four industrial revolutions.


Job recreation


However, Haldane warned that job losses would be compensated for by the creation of new jobs as a “new technological wave” broke over society.

“That is a much harder number to begin to estimate or guesstimate,” he said.

“What we can I think say with some confidence, however, is that given that the scale of job loss displacement it is likely to be at least as large as that of the first three industrial revolutions.”

He said jobs focused on skills of human interaction, face-to-face conversation and negotiation would be likely to flourish , where simple manual jobs will be more at risk.

Goldstaub said: “The challenge we have now is ensuring our workforce is ready for that change.

“What are the new jobs that will be created whether those are in building new technology, maintaining the new technology or collaborating with the new technology?

“There is a hopeful view [based] on the fact that a lot of these jobs [that disappear] are boring, mundane, unsafe, drudgery – there could be some element of liberation from some of these jobs and a move towards a brighter world.”

She added: “Now that’s not going to be an easy journey, but I do believe there is hope at the end of it all.”

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