I have just returned from a lazy summer holiday that- one where your brain disengages. This time though my brain was in overdrive as I read the book “Rise of the Robots”.
It’s not a sci if novel but a prize winning business book setting out the future of automation and its impact in the short future. The ideas it puts forward are quite mind blowing and are almost timely given the UK’s Brexit…
On a basic level Robots will not just replace jobs but make them ever so efficient. The Robots planned in warehouses not only pick the goods from the shelves but today can do it six times quicker. Imagine warehouses with no humans allowed entry and robots almost spinning around picking goods at at astonishing 100 times quicker than a low paid human. Those unskilled human workers will all become unemployed….
The fast food industry is due to go fully automated. The automation of the payment/checkout process is already here with Apple Pay but the Robots within years will prepare, cook and wrap the burgers. Every burger will finally look the same and potentially will cost half the price. Two issues immediately appear – fast food becomes cheaper and therefore we all eat more of it creating a greater modern obesity issue. Secondly there are the 500,000 unskilled workers in fast food who will become unemployed.
The book raises the issue this new mass unemployment as robots replace humans and suggest a ‘wage’ paid to all to overcome the issue of unemployment which will become a norm. The Brexit issue could be the UK’s saving. The UK relies on cheap, migrant labour to power the unskilled labour market. When the Robots rise then these will be no longer needed and Britain will not be responsible for the social welfare and upkeep of the new masses of the unemployed as we will have almost dealt with the issue as a “benefit” of Brexit. Have a look at the article by William Hague in the Daily Telegraph that implores Theresa May take the rise of automation on board as part of any new policies.
The UK has almost the lowest productivity rates in the economic G20 created by a reliance on cheap migrant labour. The UK will be in a position with Brexit to adopt Robots into the workplace quicker as this pool becomes restricted which in the longer term will allow it to massively increase productivity. Given that robots will create unemployment, then a UK with a smaller workforce will be a good thing.
The book also suggests a new way of corporate taxation. The big technologies corporates like Google, Amazon, Apple employ very few people as will the new corporates who manufacture the Robots. Most taxation is actually collected via the employees so Personal taxation, National Insurance. Why should the technology corporates avoid some sort of responsibility to contribute. Both Ford and Google have similar profits but Google employ 38,000 and Ford employ 250,000. In a future where jobs will be scarce then Ford and other employers should actually get tax breaks and perks to actually employ people. The world will need to do everything to find things for these people to do.
There is a shortage of GP’s as new medical graduates choose more exciting roles than general practice. The shortage will be some 15000 in e next ten years. A robot GP will have access to unlimited medical data and the befits to the NHS will not just be filling the gap but actually delivering a more accurate Gp service that in turn accurately sends the patient onto a Consultant or in a direction for Tests. We have all experienced being sent by of our go to get further tests which we all know are irrelevant and also costly to the NHS. A more accurate Robot GP will save money and deliver better healthcare whilst filling the skills shortage.
Whilst on the medical sphere it’s a fact that diagnosis rates for cancer are improved by almost 50 percent if a second opinion is sought from a second Consultant. Most patients never seek that second opinion and trust the diagnosis of the one doctor. It will become standard that a robot will review all medical notes and ‘flag’ what it believes are errors. Again cost savings to the NHS in terms of efficiency but reduced cancer rates.
As a final chapter to the book it talks about the day when robots and computers become cleverer than the human. If a Robot can then do every task then humans become totally redundant. Robots will run governments more efficiently, be artists, be thinkers and will find humans a nuisance. The other area it explores is nano technology and the ability to manufacture from almost zero raw materials. So a car would be able to be manufactured for little cost. Therefore again a truce economic crisis will occur as nothing has a price. Interestingly in this area governments have seen the issue and have steered the billions of development spending in the last area into areas that won’t cause this problem.
Rise of the Robots is published by and was voted Best Business book and is on Amazon.