Editorial

‘Disruption, hollowing out of the job market, heightened social tensions’: what AI will mean for Britain?

Job ‘displacement’ is likely to be at least as large as that of the first three industrial revolutions, Bank of England official tells Radio 4’s ‘Today’

Posted 21 August 2018 by

Andy Haldane, the Chief Economist of the Bank of England, told the BBC this week that the country needs a skills revolution to avoid “large swathes” of people becoming “technologically unemployed” as AI (Artificial Intelligence) makes more and more jobs obsolete.

He also told listeners of Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today that the “disruption” from the Fourth Industrial Revolution could be “on a much greater scale” than anything felt during the Victorian era, while claiming he’d seen a widespread “hollowing out” of the jobs market, rising inequality, social tension and many people struggling to make a living.

Workers need to be given the right training to take advantage of the new jobs that would become available, and that thinking about new social safety nets should start, too.

“Each of those [industrial revolutions] had a wrenching and lengthy impact on the jobs market, on the lives and livelihoods of large swathes of society,” he stated, adding that as people’s jobs were taken by machines a “hollowing out of the jobs market” had occurred that always left a lot of people for a lengthy period out of work, struggling to make a living.

“This is the dark side of technological revolutions and that dark-side has always been there,” he warned, before adding that the next wave could be “potentially on a much greater scale in the future” as we will have machines both thinking and doing, thus “replacing both the cognitive and the technical skills of humans”.

On the plus side, Haldane does expect new jobs to come along, but that it is too early to say if all the ones lost will be replaced this way, with likely hot spots being things where robots tend to do badly – so human interaction, face-to-face conversation and negotiation.