The rise of the machines (continued)

Following on from The machines may eat your job, but that might not be a bad thing, I notice that Joanne Jacobs  has written Who will work? Education, automation and jobs  in which she references the (Obama) White House report “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy” , which in turn was informed by the Frey and Osborne paper I referenced.

Joanne goes on to highlight from that White House report that an increasing proportion of US high-school students are not “college-ready” at the end of high school.,

She also quotes Andrew Yang‘s call to action in Quartz “Silicon Valley is right – our jobs are already disappearing” :

“Unprecedented things are happening in real-time and starting to wreak havoc on lives and communities around the country, particularly on those least able to adapt and adjust.”

How does that map to the UK?

My own, nascent, thoughts about what we should be doing as  matter of policy to address these changes mirror those set out in the Obama administraiton report:

  • Invest in and develop AI for its many benefits
  • Educate and train [citizens] for jobs of the future.
  • Aid workers in the transition and empower workers to ensure broadly shared growth

How do those ideas translate to a UK perspective?

Investment in AI is critical – without it our society will not have the wealth  to support the changes thatare needed. That suggests  a legal environment that is pro-competition and without the negative impact of protectionism (whether enacted by UKGOV or potential trading partners).

Doesn’t sound much like the Brexit-tainted future we are currently looking at!

Alongside investment, we need a progressive tax system, and a government that is committed to spending the tax take in the areas that are needed.

Investment in education, and an adaptation of education to reflect the reality of a world in which many jobs are automated

.The country appears to be disinvesting in education, certainly when considered per-capita. The National Audit Office  has challenged ministers on the matter, and headteachers from across the country  are highlighting the challenges they face.

Even much-trumpeted plans about addressing regional school issues as part of the “Northern Powerhouse” seem doomed to be a further example of re-arranging the deckchairs unless additional funds are injected.

In this environment it seems foolishly optimistic to talk about adapting education to the future, not least because there is no national debate I can see about the need for a changed social contract in response to the predicted changes.

Yet the people who will be entering the workforce in 2030 are those children starting school now.

Without a national dialogue around the social contract, how will our political debate ever begin to address the prospect of large swathes of the population structurally precluded from employment as we know it now?

When debate around benefits is locked into old positions about deserving/undeserving, scroungers v safety net, and coercion to take any job at any price, how likely is it that we will have a reasoned discussion around profound changes such as universal basic income?

I’d love it if someone could point me to a UK politician, of any party, who is articulating any of these issues.

Or are we lost in a morass of protectionism and xenophobia?


I see that the Science and Technology Select Committee reported in October on this topic:

Advances in robotics and AI also hold the potential to reshape, fundamentally, the way we live and work. Improvements in productivity and efficiency, driven by the spread of these technologies, were widely predicted, yet there is no consensus about what this will mean for the UK workforce. Some expect rising unemployment as labour is substituted for AI-enabled robots and machines. Others foresee a transformation in the type of employment available—with the creation of new jobs compensating for those that were lost—and the prospect of robotics and AI augmenting existing roles, and enabling humans to achieve more than they could on their own.

Despite these differing views, there is general agreement that a much greater focus is needed on adjusting our education and training systems to deliver the skills that will enable people to adapt, and thrive, as new technology comes on stream. Government leadership in this area, however, has been lacking. It is disappointing that the Government still has not published its Digital Strategy nor set out its plans for equipping the future workforce with the digital skills it needs to flourish. The Government must commit to addressing the digital skills crisis through a Digital Strategy, published without delay.

One for my reading list!

Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change