BARELY a week after the Bank of England’s chief economist warned that 15 million UK jobs could be lost to automation, a book outlining the threat of mass unemployment from technology has scooped a top prize.
Judges praised Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots, winner of the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year 2015, as “a tightly-written and deeply-researched addition to the public policy debate”.
Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey, said: “While no one can be certain how the future will unfold, this year’s winner delivers an important message: companies and governments are racing into a world where both work and the work force will need to be radically redesigned.”
The book warns that today’s industrial revolution will not unfold like the last, when innovative new jobs replaced those wiped out by technological advances.
Mr Ford argues that as technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer people will be necessary.
His book points out that artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making ‘good jobs’ obsolete and as progress continues, blue and white collar jobs alike will evaporate, squeezing working and middle class families ever further.
At the same time, Mr Ford argues that households are under assault from exploding costs, especially from education and health care, that, so far, have not been transformed by information technology.
Mr Ford said the result could well be massive unemployment and inequality as well as the implosion of the consumer economy itself.
In his book, he details what machine intelligence and robotics can accomplish and urges employers, scholars and policymakers to face the implications.
He believes that education isn’t going to work and said humans must decide whether the future will see broad-based prosperity or catastrophic levels of inequality and economic insecurity.