Simplicity of ideas

I thought I ought to post something on here this year.  So here goes. 

Quite recently Mark Carney made a speech called the Spectre of Monetarism.  It was linked up by a friend on social media and being the geek I am I gave the paper a read.  One particular quote did jump out at me.  As it did quite a few others.  It is:

“up to 15 million of the current jobs in Britain could be automated over time.”

It’s very interesting to see the difference between that quote and how it’s simplified by the media.  “up to” and “could be”, hardly the words of a man who’s confident in his predictions.  I was curious to see where he’d got that figure from.  It’s from a speech by the Chief Economist Andy Haldane, who also works for the Bank of England.  Again an interesting speech and well worth a read.  The quote from his paper:
“For the UK, that would suggest up to 15 million jobs could be at risk of automation.”

So where did Mr Haldane get his figure from?  A paper written in 2013 by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne.  This paper (again a good read) examines the susceptibility of jobs to automation.  Again, I’m back to asking what is the original idea behind Frey and Osborne’s paper?  Simple, it’s Keynes.  We’re back to his popular quote from 1933.

“due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour”

I’ll admit that I’ve not read Keynes’s paper, but his prediction that we’ll run out of jobs soon hasn’t yet come around.  In fact, we seem to have picked up more jobs.  While yes, some tasks have slowly been replaced by machines over the last 200 odd years, we’re still left with a system that relies on many of us working.  So I do rather doubt that things like Machine Learning, which are useful, in certain applications, are going to do what the last 80 or so years of mechanisation and computerisation have failed to do.