So, the world’s richest man has become ‘poacher turned game-keeper’? The Bill Gates crusade to persuade his fellow billionaires to share the love, by pledging to give away their fortunes, whilst simultaneously preventing malaria is very much admired. But his idea – albeit not a new one – that the only way to prevent a giant financial blackhole is to tax robotic automation, seems, well…..a bit rich. If you pardon the pun.
His Microsoft packages did a brilliant job of ridding offices of clerical staff across the world and his email system must have put a sizeable dent in the Royal Mail’s ‘year-end’. Yet we all survived. Why? Because for one simple reason; innovation is proven to create jobs, develop new industries, not destroy them.
Clearly, low skilled or manual jobs have been, and will continue to be at the greatest risk. The next march, are industries typically occupied by the middle classes. Top of the Pops, were insurance underwriters who have a 98.8% chance of C3PO pinching their job. Closely followed by motor insurance assessors and credit analysts both up around 98%.
The latter, essentially exists already. It doesn’t matter how nicely you smile at the mortgage advisor, or raise funding capital, the banks decision is almost always based on a set of algorithms, not on the person, their idea, a watertight business plan or stellar track record.
Medium risk industry sectors included judges, detectives and economists, all around the 40% mark. And anyone sitting reading this whilst finishing a triple heart bypass or trafficking Heathrow airspace, can sleep easier tonight as your considered the lowest risk.
The robots don’t always succeed either. In Japan, a nation fuelled by an obsession with technology they have ditched robotic waiting and bar staff. The hospitality industry is forever conjuring up ways to improve margins. Automated coffee machines or even ordering a Big Mac are everyday examples of how robotic processes make us more productive and our life more simple…..yet more beige and frustrating.
What robots can’t replace is the worth of human interaction. If you’re paying £50 a head for dinner then a welcoming smile, perhaps a little aimless chit-chat about the weather is all part of the experience. Great service is as important as the food on the table or contemporary art on the walls.
If the Luddites had had their way, there would have been no industrial revolution. Henry Ford may not have considered the impact her had when introducing the car. It probably hit the equestrian and cart making sectors pretty hard. But, we moved on. And we soon grasped that the invention of the telephone could both save us time and be handy in an emergency.
In more recent years’ industries have had to reposition or structure much quicker and this trend is likely to continue. When email replaced the letter, the meteoric rise of internet shopping has kept postmen so busy. We now have over 63,000 companies in the UK post and logistics industry alone.
On the flipside, the frantic race to have our roads full of driverless vehicles will impact on jobs within this sector. The trade off, will be the manufacturers and engineers who build them, plus the miners who are needed to feed the car companies appetite for the lithium and borate needed to keep the batteries going. It’s swings and roundabouts.
So, instead of taxing robots, we should not actually be giving tax breaks and be looking to the future on how best to harness our creativity and the freedom automation continues to bring?
Asides ignoring the actual thing that’s made him wealthy, the other oddity with Bill Gates’ comments is it will ultimately be businesses, not the robots that are taxed. Yes, the annual payroll take will drop, but this will simply be replaced with the various array of blunt tools governments use to extract money such as corporation tax or VAT.
His socialist notion that governments will become bankrupt, health care systems collapse (in our case, even further than currently) and half the world will end up jobless whilst a handful of Artificial Intelligence trillionaires rake in all the cash is a little laughable. Especially when he’s been steadily selling off his enormous stake from his previous robot built cash guzzling empire.
Robots, in case he hasn’t noticed, don’t have social security numbers, final workplace pension schemes or need to use any public services. They will continue to replace the mundane, work long hours without complaint, which will make the cost of consumer goods cheaper.
However, it’s not only been Bill ‘Brewster’s Millions’ Gates getting in on the robot welfare act. It’s also not our highly strung, and overly precious university students frantically concerning themselves with how a transgender Mexican built robot might feel if you wore a sombrero on a Friday night out.
Yes, you’ve guessed it. It’s those other highly compassionate officials over in Brussels.
Thankfully, they recently voted to reject the idea of a direct tax on robots, but not before debating whether robots have ‘human rights’. The clue is in the title Mr Junker. Robots are not human. They don’t have sneaky fag-breaks and spend Friday afternoons Googling restaurant options or Saturday’s team news.
It’s reading stories like this that make me very concerned we’ll ever manage to find our way out of the EU. If Theresa May’s crack negotiating team stumble, perhaps, the robots can take over?