Artificial intelligence could cause disruption "on a much greater scale" than anything felt in the Victorian-era Industrial Revolution, says the chief economist of the Bank of England.
Andy Haldane, who has worked at the Bank since 2014, said that the UK will need a skills revolution to avoid "large swathes" of people being made redundant as robots and AI replace them in the workplace, the BBC reports.
Haldane argued that retraining must be made available to people, so that they have a role to fill in the new economy. Talking to the Today Programme on Radio 4, he said:
"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.
"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...
"This is the dark side of technological revolutions and that dark side has always been there.
"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."
Continuing, he said, "What we can I think say with some confidence, however, is that given that the scale of job loss displacement it is likely to be at least as large as that of the first three industrial revolutions.
"We will need even greater numbers of new jobs to be created in the future, if we are not to suffer this longer-term feature called technological unemployment."
Tabitha Goldstaub, chair of the Artificial Intelligence Council (a new government advisory body), echoed Haldane. She said that the challenge is ensuring that people are ready for change, and that new jobs must be created to replace those that automation replaces.
"The challenge we have now is ensuring our workforce is ready for that change.
"What are the new jobs that will be created, whether those are in building new technology, maintaining the new technology or collaborating with the new technology?
"There is a hopeful view [based] on the fact that a lot of these jobs [that disappear] are boring, mundane, unsafe, drudgery - there could be some element of liberation from some of these jobs and a move towards a brighter world.
"Now that's not going to be an easy journey, but I do believe there is hope at the end of it all."
Jordan Morrow, Global Head of Data Literacy at Qlik, said:
"It's not surprising to see the chief economist of the Bank of England...warning that the UK will need a skills revolution to avoid 'large swathes' of people becoming 'technologically unemployed' as artificial intelligence revolutionises the workplace...
"We are in the midst of an extreme data literacy deficiency and, like the Bank of England, we believe that organisations need to upskill employees fast to achieve a sustainable level of growth in the next 5-10 years.
"Companies should be capitalising on enthusiasm among the workforce and identifying data champions who can encourage data literacy. Organisations are made up of very different people, parts, and pieces; therefore, this will need to be done on multiple levels, with the different data personalities across the business needing tailored support.
"Strong mentoring and stewardship will help to create the right culture where anyone can thrive - whatever level they are starting from."
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