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'This Time May Be Different': Bank of England Chief Economist on Robots Taking Your Job

"Gaps between those with and without skills ... may widen as never before."

Jason Del Rey

In the future, Uber or Google will take you to work in an autonomously-driven car. Soylent (or something like it) will replace eating meals with other people. A gigantic robot arm will eliminate the workers in an Amazon warehouse.

This is the extremist position, of course; Soylent tastes terrible.

But Andy Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England (the United Kingdom’s central bank), yesterday outlined what the future of jobs could look like in a world dominated by the kind of automation that we’re beginning to see today.

In a speech to the Trade Union Congress in London, Haldane suggested that although hundreds of years of technological innovation hasn’t necessarily displaced more jobs than it has created, that might not be the case in the future. Or, in his words, “This time may be different”: 80 million jobs in the U.S. and 15 million in the U.K. could potentially be “automatable.”

“Technology may be set to change jobs and wages more fundamentally than in the past. Job displacement and creation may come thicker and faster than ever previously,” Haldane said. “‘Hollowing out’ [‘mid-skilled workers’ losing their jobs] may become more pervasive. And gaps between those with and without skills, or with and without jobs, may widen as never before.”

Haldane’s speech is very long, and a lot of his specific data points apply mostly to the U.K. But there are some great charts that map out the kind of jobs that are likely to be taken over by robots, which we’ve attached below. You can read a synopsis of his remarks here and his full speech here.

Bank of England

Bank of England

Bank of England

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