Robots, AI Could Put Humans at a Disadvantage at Workplace

Technology > IT

Technological advancements such as robotics and artificial intelligence in the workplace are perceived with caution in the UK as these could rob humans of opportunities to climb up the social ladder.

Lee Elliot Major, the chief executive of the Sutton Trust, told Sky News that he is worried that the rise of robotics might take the paraprofessional jobs -- jobs that could serve as stepping stones for people to rise in the social ladder. “People from poorer backgrounds will be disproportionately affected because those are the people that have these jobs normally."

In a report, the Sutton Trust said that only 29 percent of people believe today's youth will have a better quality of life than their parents compared to 42 percent in 2003.

The report suggested that bringing the UK up to the average Western European levels of social mobility could add 2.1 percent to GDP per year, a total boost of around £39 billion, but it also found that up to 15 million jobs in the UK "could disappear due to technological disruption."

The result could be a two-tier society, the Trust said, with "an elite, high-skilled group dominating the higher echelon of society and a lower-skilled, low-income group with limited prospects of upward mobility and an irremediably broken social ladder."

Some quarters in the UK are viewing automation as a very serious issue.  

Tony Burke, assistant general secretary for manufacturing of the union Unite, told Sky News: “Unlike previous industrial revolutions that created employment, the problem with the Industrial Revolution 4.0 is it is actually going to reduce it.  Our problem is that our government doesn't have a strategy for how they're going to manage this."

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the government has already asked a team of industry experts led by Siemens CEO Juergen Maier to look into the challenges and opportunities of digital technology and automation.

“This review will consider how we can work together with businesses to ensure the benefits of new technologies are felt in different sectors of the economy, creating new, exciting and well- paid jobs across the country," he said.

Photo by: Stephen Chin via Flickr