Are robots taking our jobs?

Hasan Bakhshi et al at Nesta: “In recent years, there has been an explosion of research into the impacts of automation on work. This makes sense: artificial intelligence and robotics are encroaching on areas of human activity that were simply unimaginable a few years ago.

We ourselves have made contributions to this debate (herehere and here). In The Future of Skills, however, we argue that public dialogues that consider automation alone are dangerous and misleading.

They are dangerous, because popular narratives matter for economic outcomes, and a narrative of relentless technological displacement of labour markets risks chilling innovation and growth, at a time when productivity growth is flagging in developed countries.

They are misleading because there are opportunities for boosting growth – if our education and training systems are agile enough to respond appropriately. However, while there is a burgeoning field of research on the automatability of occupations, there is far less that focuses on skills, and even less that generates actionable insights for stakeholders in areas like job redesign and learning priorities.

There is also a need to recognise that parallel to automation is a set of broader technological, demographic, economic and environmental trends which will have profound implications for employment. In some cases, the trends will reinforce one another; in others, they will produce second-order effects which may be missed when viewed in isolation…..

Skills investment must be at the centre of any long-term strategy for adjusting to structural change. A precondition is access to good quality, transparent analysis of future skills needs, as without it, labour market participants and policymakers risk flying blind. The approach we’ve developed is a step towards improving our understanding of this vital agenda and one that invites a more pro-active reaction than the defensive one that has characterised public discussions on automation in recent years. We’d love to hear your comments….(More).”