Get ready for a fourth industrial revolution

You’re fired: One study estimates that 800 million jobs will be lost to robots by 2030.

Should we embrace or fear the robot revolution? The Bank of England’s chief economist has warned of the need to take drastic measures to stop millions of people falling victim to AI.

Yesterday, the chief economist of the Bank of England,’ Andy Haldane, warned that millions face unemployment as artificial intelligence (AI) begins to replace jobs.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Haldane predicted that the disruption caused by the AI revolution could be “on a much greater scale” than anything felt during the First Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th century.

The term “fourth industrial revolution” was popularised by Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum.

The first revolution saw rural societies become industrial and urban.

The second came around the turn of the 20th century, a period of growth for pre-existing industries and expansion of new ones. Electric power enabled mass production, rendering millions of jobs obsolete.

The third was the digital revolution. The age of computers, the internet and the mobile phone.

These times of upheaval all saw “a hollowing out of the jobs market”. This caused huge social problems.

As a new industrial revolution wave breaks, people will have to adapt.

But will the positives of these changes outweigh the negatives?

Terminated

Humanity is unprepared for this, say some. The Israeli writer Yuval Noah Harari predicts that the robot revolution will create a class of almost god-like humans with immense power, while the rest of us are left with nothing to do with our time. There is already anger at wealth inequality in modern societies. That would only increase.

But there would be new jobs to create and maintain this technology, argue others. Tabitha Goldstaub, chair of the Artificial Intelligence Council, predicts that “boring, mundane, unsafe” jobs will go, adding that “there could be some element of liberation from some of these jobs and a move towards a brighter world.”

You Decide

  1. Think of your dream job. Could a robot do it?

Activities

  1. Imagine that you are the head of a robotics company and have been asked to design a new robot to do a specific job. What will your robot look like? How would it do its job?

Some People Say...

“Our worst comes out when we behave like robots.”

Fernando Flores

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The robot revolution is not some futuristic pipe dream; it is already happening. Thousands of jobs in retail and manufacturing have already been lost to machines, and this will continue into the future.
What do we not know?
Just how fast this will all happen. In any field, it has to be proved beyond much reasonable doubt that robots are both safe and more efficient than humans.

Word Watch

Bank of England
The central bank of the United Kingdom. It is responsible for managing the country’s currency, money supply and interest rates.
World Economic Forum
A Swiss foundation that hosts a yearly summit in Davos — a meeting of the world’s top businessmen, economists and politicians.
Expansion of new ones
The steel and oil industries expanded hugely during the Second Industrial Revolution.
Yuval Noah Harari
Harari outlined his theory in his book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Dvir, 2015).