News Subject: How Long Until the UK Has a Fully Automated Workforce?


A new report says 10 million UK jobs will be lost to machines in the next 15 years.
 
A couple of weeks ago, during the government budget, Philip Hammond announced that £270 million would be committed towards "disruptive technologies" – namely robotics and AI.
 
This announcement came after years of slow progress in the UK robotics industry. In 2013, the government labelled "robotics and artificial intelligence" as one of the eight "great technologies" in which the UK could be an international leader. But the enthusiasm seemed to end there, as last year a select committee found there was no clear government strategy "for developing the skills and securing the investment that is needed to create future growth in robotics and AI".
 
But the story seems to have changed with Hammond's announcement, and today a report by consultancy firm PwC found that more than 10 million workers in the UK are at high risk of being replaced by machines within the next 15 years. Still, some experts have been quick to point out that Hammond's £270 million isn't all that much in context. The budget allocation spans everything from complex artificial intelligence to driverless cars and biotech, as well as industrial robotics. Considering the US spent over $1 billion on AI alone last year, the UK's figure doesn't seem particularly promising.
 
 
Mike Wilson is chairman of the British Automation & Robot Association, and works for ABB Robotics, where he runs courses that seek to show businesses the benefits of embracing automation. He tells me his area often loses out on government funding to other advanced technologies: "Most of the efforts and money that has been put into robotics has been largely aimed at the future robot technologies – things like driverless cars and healthcare," he says. "To date, they've not put a lot of attention on industrial robots; the robots that are used for manufacturing."
 
And why's that? "We are dealing with politicians; politicians have to be aware of perceptions. Unfortunately there has been a lot of coverage in the popular press that robots will replace more than 30 percent of jobs in the UK," says Wilson, before arguing that this bleak picture painted by the tabloids isn't necessarily true.
 
"The problem with that is when people are talking about this, they are actually talking about things like white collar jobs, not manufacturing jobs, so they're not talking about jobs that robots are currently doing anyway," he says, adding that he believes no dirty, toxic or mundane jobs should be done by humans, and generally, that this is the direction developed societies are heading in.
News item provided by: BARA