The rise of robots can be a good thing for Britain because they will do boring jobs and boost the economy, Labour‘s deputy leader Tom Watson today said.
He urged Britons to ’embrace an android’ and insist that if the Government invests properly in automation then it could produce as many jobs as it destroys.
Mr Watson’s comments come amid growing fears the spread of artificial intelligence could cost millions of jobs and cause mass unemployment as human workers are displaced by machines.
But the Labour deputy leader said: ‘Much has been written about the impact of technological change and the dystopian future we could all face as a result of the rise of the robots.
‘It can sometimes feel like we are preparing for a world in which artificial intelligence, algorithms and automation, rather than human endeavour and hard work, will shape every aspect of our society and our economy.
Tom Watson, pictured at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton in September, urged Britons to ’embrace an android’ and insist that if the Government invests properly in automation then it could produce as many jobs as it destroys
‘That sounds like a frightening prospect. But it needn’t be.’
He said that by allowing ’21st-century machines’ to undertake boring and routine tasks in the workplace humans will be freed to do other jobs with bigger economic benefits.
And, paraphrasing David Cameron’s famous call to ‘hug a hoodie’ he added: ‘That is liberating.
‘So I suppose what I’m really saying is: robots can set us free … A former prime minister once famously said “hug a hoodie”. Today, I’m asking you to embrace an android.’
He made the comments at the launch of the final report of the Future of Work Commission, which found that people should not fear the ‘march of the robots’.
Although the study admits that to take advantage of the growth in automation workers in Britain will have to be re-skilled to move into other jobs.
Mr Watson convened and co-chaired the commission, which also includes experts including Nobel prize-winning economist Sir Christopher Pissarides, and Harvard and Oxford University professors.
The Commission blames the UK’s low productivity and stagnant wage son decisions made by politicians in Government rather than robots.
And the report found that ‘mass technological unemployment’ as a result of automation is ‘highly unlikely’.
A robot barrister serves up a cup if coffee in San Francisco. A report earlier this year by PwC found that up to 10 million UK jobs could be lost as robots take them over – but today’s Future of Work Commission report says automation can boost the economy and create jobs
They are calling for more investment to be ploughed into education and training so that workers can adapt and change jobs.
They are calling for children to be taught about artificial intelligence in secondary schools and the creation of a universal, lifelong future skills account to help people retrain over their entire lives.
And they want a slew of tax changes so businesses are incentivised to invest in new technologies.
Helen Mountfield QC, who co-chaired the commission, told The Guardian: ‘Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence don’t need to spell the end of work. But we cannot sit passively by letting technological change just happen.
‘We need to decide what sort of future we want and make policy choices, design education and introduce a legal architecture to shape a future of good work which benefits everyone, in which the rewards of innovation are fairly shared.’
It comes after a report by leading accountancy PwC earlier this year warned that more than 10 million UK workers are at high risk of losing thehir jobs to robots.