Models and tax collectors beware - bots are coming for your jobs

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Models and tax collectors beware - bots are coming for your jobs

In this industrial revolution it’s artificial intelligence versus the middle classes, warns economist Carl Frey

Harry de Quetteville

In 2013, Carl Frey, a willowy young economist who grew up in the southern Swedish university town of Lund, sat down with Michael Osborne, a colleague of his at Oxford University. Frey wanted to understand how automation might affect current careers: will we all be enhanced and supercharged by technology, or demoralised and made redundant?

It is the $64,000, twist-or-bust question of our age. For while today’s advances – artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles – are widely accepted as transformational, no one can say for sure whether that transformation will be for good or ill. Frey tried to find out. And, ironically, the reason he recruited Osborne, a professor of machine learning, was to develop an algorithm to partially automate the task. The results were startling.

In a list of 702 occupations, 47% were deemed at high risk of disappearing in the next few years. The paper was a sensation. And now Frey, 35, is back with a new book, The Technology Trap, which aims to diagnose the consequences of our own industrial revolution still further. Will we be richer, poorer, happier, sadder, more fulfilled or less, politically more or less stable? And if we don’t like it, can we do anything?..

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