Ro­bots will steal your wages, but not your jobs, Bar­clays pre­dicts

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Tim Wal­lace

RO­BOTS and com­put­ers are un­der­min­ing wages by sim­pli­fy­ing jobs and turn­ing skilled work into un­skilled labour.

Au­to­ma­tion is spread­ing into of­fice jobs and the ser­vices sec­tor, mean­ing mid­dle class ca­reers and pro­fes­sions risk be­ing un­der­cut in a way never be­fore seen.

It will squash pay pack­ets se­verely for years or even decades to come, a new re­port from Bar­clays has warned.

Writ­ten by more than a dozen Bar­clays ex­ec­u­tives, re­searchers and econ­o­mists, it said sev­eral ca­reers have al­ready been de­stroyed as routes to pros­per­ity.

Lorry driv­ers were once highly paid – phys­i­cal strength com­bined with the dex­ter­ity re­quired to ma­noeu­vre large ve­hi­cles, abil­i­ties and skills that were hard to ac­quire – but power steer­ing re­moved the strength re­quire­ment, and rear-view cam­eras make re­vers­ing a jug­ger­naut sim­pler. As a re­sult, real wages have crashed. The av­er­age US trucker earned $38,000 (£26,000) in 1980, but only $46,000 now – but to keep up with price in­fla­tion, the wage should be sev­eral mul­ti­ples of this.

Sim­i­larly Lon­don’s black cab driv­ers have to learn The Knowl­edge, train­ing hard to learn the cap­i­tal’s streets in de­tail, by mem­ory. How­ever, sat­navs and apps such as Uber have led to a large in­flux of driv­ers who have not had to pass this test, driv­ing down earn­ings for cab­bies.

In­dus­tries soon to be af­fected in­clude medicine, the an­a­lysts be­lieve, with even com­plex tasks such as surgery be­com­ing sim­pler. “Sur­geons al- ready use ro­bots widely in surg­eries; mi­cro­robots can per­form surg­eries at mi­cro­scopic lev­els (still un­der the di­rec­tion of a hu­man) that sur­geons can­not man­u­ally per­form,” the re­port said.

“Hu­man judg­ment is still es­sen­tial, but might be­come less so with the de­vel­op­ment of ma­chine learn­ing plat­forms in the med­i­cal field. With the de­vel­op­ment of ma­chine vi­sion, ma­chines could also be bet­ter equipped to make med­i­cal di­ag­noses.”

It could take many years be­fore new tech­nolo­gies such as ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence be­comes fully em­bed­ded in the econ­omy to the ex­tent that they boost pro­duc­tiv­ity and wages once more.

So far the im­pact has broadly been pos­i­tive, the an­a­lysts be­lieve, cit­ing es­ti­mates that 15.8 mil­lion jobs have been cre­ated over­all by com­puter tech­nol­ogy in the past 40 years, count­ing those both cre­ated and de­stroyed.

Eco­nomic growth has been un­der­stated by around 0.75 per­cent­age points per year as dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies are not prop­erly mea­sured, they say.

Rise of the ro­bots: earn­ings are be­ing driven down by tech­nol­ogy usurp­ing skill sets, a re­port claims

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