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Bank of England warns of massive technological unemployment

by on21 August 2018

Humans to be replaced by dollies

The chief economist of the Bank of England has warned that the UK will need a skills revolution to avoid "large swathes" of people becoming "technologically unemployed" as artificial intelligence makes many jobs obsolete.

Andy Haldane said the possible disruption of what is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution could be "on a much greater scale" than anything felt during the First Industrial Revolution of the Victorian era.

He said that he had seen a widespread "hollowing out" of the jobs market, rising inequality, social tension and many people struggling to make a living.

Haldane said “history" showed that governments needed to step in to give the training to take advantage of the new jobs that would become available.

He added that in the past a safety net such as new welfare benefits had also been provided.

Haldane's points were echoed by the new head of the government's advisory council on artificial intelligence, who also warned there was a "huge risk" of people being left behind as computers and robots changed the world of work.

Tabitha Goldstaub, chair of the newly formed Artificial Intelligence Council, said that the challenge was ensuring that people were ready for change and that the focus was on creating the new jobs of the future to replace those that would disappear.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Haldane said: "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. Jobs were effectively taken by machines of various types, there was a hollowing out of the jobs market, and that left a lot of people for a lengthy period out of work and struggling to make a living.That heightened social tensions, it heightened financial tensions, it led to a rise in inequality."

He said that this was the dark side of technological revolutions and that dark side has always been there.

"Hollowing out is going to be potentially on a much greater scale in the future, when we have machines both thinking and doing - replacing both the cognitive and the technical skills of humans."

Last modified on 21 August 2018
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