One of the biggest threats to global inequality could be the rise of robots, according to a new analysis of the subject by Bank of America Merrill Lynch that predicts that the livelihoods of care workers and fast food restaurant staff could be at risk.
The analysts say in their report, which was released exclusively to The Guardian newspaper, that the increasing levels of independent thought being demonstrated by robots could herald the dawn of a fourth industrial revolution. The report said that the increasing use of robotics in everyday life represented a “paradigm shift”.
However, like the revolutions of the past, there will be a human cost to the march of progress that increasingly advanced robotics represents. According to an Oxford University study cited in the analysis, 35 per cent of all British workers could lose their jobs if current trends continue. The figure for the US is even higher, at 47 per cent and the impact is expected to be at its worst amongst the poorest workers. One example of how this could turn out is the Japanese car industry, where robots work around the clock for as long as thirty days without interruption.
The report advises investors to buy stakes in robotics companies before the trend becomes more pronounced, in order to maximise their returns. As for those whose jobs could be under threat, the report advised them to take measures to improve their skills and seek to improve their education. The lead author, Beijia Ma, also said that new technologies always lead to disruption but that human societies have a tendency to be able to turn the changes to their advantage. Skynet is not something to be afraid of, is the clear implication. Judgement Day therefore remains in the realm of fiction, but the threat to the livelihoods of millions of people is very real.