Rise of robots need not mean the end of human jobs, says Haldane

Andy Haldane
Andy Haldane
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THE RISE of robots does not sound the death knell for human work, the Bank of England’s chief economist said yesterday after a speech he made last week predicted that up to 15 million UK jobs could be at risk of automation over the next few decades.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Andy Haldane said: “We need to rethink carefully how best we make use of the resources we have. Retraining people would be an important dimension of this.”

He added: “We’ll have to think imaginatively. A lot of these trends are kicking in now.”

In his speech to the Trades Union Congress, Mr Haldane said the world may be on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution or second machine age as the full fruits of information technology are harvested.

He said the definining feature of this new age would be machines that are “thinking as well as doing, sensing as well as sifting, adapting as well as enacting”.

Robots would then span a much wider part of the skill distribution than ever before and as they extend their reach, the “hollowing out” of jobs would become faster, wider and deeper, added Mr Haldane.

The central banker also recalled his growing in Yorkshire in the early 1980s, when unemployment of nearly 13 per cent awakened his interest in economics.

“Unemployment at that stage was not for me a statistic... For my family, it was real. For many communities and regions it was a blight, social every bit as much as economic,” said Mr Haldane, who went to Guiseley School.