First published: Prospectmagazine.co.uk, 17/11/2014
Scary headlines belie the complexity—and the potential opportunities—of technological shocks in the labour market
t has been hailed as the biggest change in the way the world works since the Industrial Revolution. While the latter allowed us to transcend the limitations of muscles, digital technologies are allegedly doing the same to the limitations of our minds. New technologies in manufacturing, the application of robotics in the provision of both goods and services, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence are not only developing rapidly, but also outstripping our expectations in many ways. They lead to greater efficiencies in everything from manufacturing to medicine, lower costs and prices, and more sophisticated and diverse products. So what’s not to like?
In a nutshell, they are extraordinarily disruptive, as new technologies always are. But this time, something is different. Instead of complementing or supplementing human endeavour, technology is displacing or substituting for it. In other words, instead of man exploiting machines and becoming more productive in new jobs as a result, machines are making us and many occupations permanently redundant. This is because machines can now do things that even a decade ago were thought to be the sole preserve of humans, notably pattern matching and complex communications. Just think about the development of driverless cars, modern pathology, in-home elderly care, report-writing, research and data tasks that have even displaced bankers,lawyers and accountants, on-line education and teaching, and simultaneous translation…“more:”