In Brief

Ministers to consider risk of robots taking over UK jobs

Could the rapid growth in Artificial Intelligence put skilled jobs in jeopardy?

The government is to investigate the impact that rapidly-improving Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robot technology will have on British jobs, according to Sky News. There are fears that as many as a third of jobs could go to automatons.

A former cabinet office adviser, Daniel Susskind, has warned that white collar jobs will be under threat, with computers replacing doctors and lawyers – at least to some degree.

He said: "These increasingly capable machines and systems offer us a way to provide far more affordable access to expertise. We are going to see more change in the next two decades than we have in the last two centuries in the professions.

"But there are tasks we might not want these systems and machines to perform. Medicine is a particularly acute example – we wouldn't necessarily want a machine to decide whether to switch off a life support machine."

A report by Deloitte last year predicted that 35 per cent of UK jobs are at risk over the next two decades. Workers earning £30k a year or less will be five times more likely to lose their jobs than those earning £100k.

The technology is here already – new roles taken on by robots or AI programmes include:

  • Buying and selling shares: More than half of trades made on the world's financial markets are now made automatically by software, says the Financial Times.
  • Diagnosing medical problems: The Daily Beast says IBM supercomputer Watson has partnered with a US pharmacist to analyse patient records and help diagnose ailments.
  • Cooking a meal: In April, UK firm Moley Robotics unveiled robotic arms that can whip up a crab bisque, said Ars Technica. A consumer version should be ready in two years.
  • Driving us to work: Earlier this summer, Chancellor George Osborne said he plans to make the UK a hub for developing driverless cars – already legal in some US states.
  • Hoping we'll 'have a nice day': The first robot-staffed hotel opened in Japan last month. Australian ABC News says some of the 'workers' are humanoid – but one clerk on the front desk looks like a velociraptor.

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