Our reliance as a society on technology is now almost total. Few of us would be able to cope if all of the innovations we use every day, from our smartphones to our high-speed internet, ceased to operate.
However, improvements in technology and its ability to replicate human actions is problematic for some. In particular, the belief that Artificial Intelligence will develop to a point where machines will take over our jobs, precipitating an exponential rise in unemployment is creating anxiety for many.
Recently, these concerns have been voiced by extremely credible and well-informed sources, pushing the issue further up the nation’s agenda. The Bank of England’s Chief Economist, Andy Haldane gave a stark warning this summer on the threat of long-term unemployment which he believes will be the result of Artificial Intelligence. Haldane spoke of a widespread “hollowing out” of the jobs market, arguing that the dark side of the current technological revolution will be experienced “…when we have machines both thinking and doing – replacing both the cognitive and the technical skills of humans.”
In my view, Haldane’s comments are much less about scaremongering around technology and more an urgent and timely reminder that we need to get our act together as a country if we are all to fully benefit from the fourth industrial revolution.
Talking about a revolution
We must, first of all, do more as a nation to address the ever-widening skills gap. This requires an informed and practical government-led strategy, created in close consultation with businesses and must be created and implemented as a matter of urgency. UK companies are already suffering from a serious shortage of crucial IT skills and with technological innovation accelerating so rapidly, we could soon find ourselves with an almost unbridgeable gap, completely lacking in the skilled people we need to power our future growth.

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