THE UK needs to undergo a skills revolution to ward off the threat to job losses caused by artificial intelligence (AI), the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane has warned.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme, Haldane said that the Fourth Industrial Revolution may well be on a greater scale that the First Industrial Revolution of the Victorian era.
He warned that a hollowing out of the jobs market had already taken place with a consequent rise in inequality and social tensions.
“Each of those industrial revolutions had a wrenching and lengthy impact on the jobs market, on the lives and livelihoods of large swathes of society,” said Haldane.
“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.”
Haldane said that that job losses could be compensated for by the creation of new jobs as a “new technological wave” broke over society.
He predicted that jobs that focused on skills of human interaction, face-to-face conversation and negotiation would be likely to flourish, but warned that simple manual jobs would be most at risk.
Matt Weston, managing director at fintech recruitment firm Robert Half UK, agreed that AI will transform businesses and the wider working world.
“It will enable businesses to enter new markets, diversify their operations, improve their ability to address their customers’ needs and improve their competitive advantage,” he said.
“The greatest change, however, may be inside the workplace. Indeed, AI’s potential to also transform the way we work cannot be overstated.
“A quarter of CIOs in the UK are already considering the expectations of their future IT departments; both the staffing and the infrastructure requirements that will accompany this.”