The Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane has warned that artificial intelligence could bring about the same levels of job displacement as the First Industrial Revolution.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today Programme, Haldane went on to say that unless there was a skills revolution, “large swathes” of the population would be left “technologically unemployed.”
Referring to the First Industrial Revolution of the Victorian era Haldane said: “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 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.”
“This is the dark side of technological revolutions and that dark-side has always been there.”
Echoing what many experts have already predicted, automation will initially hit manual labour jobs hardest while jobs that require human interaction, face-to-face conversation and negotiation would likely succeed.
Writing on HuffPost, Leslie Willcocks who is Professor of Work, Technology and Globalisation at the London School of Economics believes, along with his colleagues, that while technology will indeed take jobs the role of artificial intelligence has been overstated.
“We question whether AI applications that get computers to replicate how the mind works are anywhere near ready for major workplace deployment. In fact, we suggest they are unlikely to be so for decades,” he writes.
Indeed Professor Willcocks believes that even where ‘dumb’ automation robots could potentially take jobs, the outcome can still be beneficial for the humans that work there.
“By taking over the routine tasks such as data entry that can be monotonous and unrewarding for humans, companies can benefit from significant cost savings, faster processing and less error, whilst simultaneously freeing up human workers to take on more interesting, rewarding roles, generating greater employee satisfaction.”
Tabitha Goldstaub, chair of the government’s newly-created Artificial Intelligence Council believes that for this transition to work, workplaces and their staff will need to adapt fast.
“What we have to think about is the time in which this change is happening, and it is definitely happening quicker than ever before,” she told the Today Programme. “The challenge we have now is ensuring our workforce is ready for that change.
“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.”