Monday, July 25, 2016

Our world is about to change - and sooner than we realise

For the last fifty years the vast majority of people in Britain and other OECD countries have learned to drive in early adulthood and most have made regular use of this skill.

My twin son and daughter, who turned fifteen a few days ago, are likely to be the last generation for whom this is true. If they had been five this year rather than fifteen - possibly even if they were ten - my bet would be that when they reach the age to learn to drive the impact on the vehicle market and insurance rates of driverless cars would have made it prohibitively expensive for most young people to learn to drive.

People of my generation who wish to continue driving may be able to do so as long as we retain our health and no-claims bonuses and manage not to trip too many speed cameras but it will become more and more expensive and those of us who take this option will come to be seen as dinosaurs.

Inside ten years I think it is likely that the number of people who chose to own and drive their own car will plummet: instead millions will find it more cost-effective and convenient to order up a driverless vehicle as and when they need one.

The job of taxi driver is likely to go the same way as the Gaslamp-lighter within a couple of decades.

This will be part of a wave of automation which will change our lives more than we realise. Mostly for the better but there will be casualties - and if we want to minimise the human cost of this, we need a more flexible economy and plenty of training to help people find new jobs in the new industries which will spring up to replace the old ones.

It is an era which will bring risks and opportunities and we need to be ready for both.

There is a good article by Nicholas Mazzei about some of the changes we are about to live through which you can read on the TRG site at


Jim said...

Its very much it, we dont have typing pools anymore, we have MS word, and mail merge.

we don't need things like lamp lighters, we have electric lights.

we Do need more people to keep the lights on, and to keep the computers and networks working, we need programmers, we need technicians, we need cyber security, we need SQL database coders, we need fitters.

So driverless cars, ok fine, but we would need a programmer to program them, would need maintainers to maintain them, would need traffic co-ordinators to also aid them, we would need infra structure to ensure they work, we would need sat nav programmers, we would need voice recognigition software, as well as surrounding software, camera programmers, information sensor detection techs, system over ride watchers, we would need payment systems, we would need...........

Do you see? for every "job" as a taxi driver that is lost, many more are created.

Its the same as its been for years, did the world fall apart with the invention of the tractor to get rid of 100 farm hands? - no, what about the invention of the production line to replace the factories? - No. Did we lose out by losing horse trainers in favour of the car? - no.

Things change and people move on, we re-train and do other things, that does not take government interference, it just means people move on and re train, like they have been doing throughout human history.

Jim said...

But the crux is quite simply that campaigning for a higher min wage is dangerous, You see it makes sense then to automate the low skill job.

Why not use the opportunity of the low skill job, while you still have a hope of it, and use it to aid you to re-train?

Chris Whiteside said...

Yes, that's precisely the point, the old jobs go, the new jobs come, we need to be flexible, we need to help people re-train.

In the context that there is a social security system you can have a minimum wage up to a certain level with a net effect on employment which is positive or at least neutral, but if you set it too high it will certainly destroy jobs and opportunities in the manner you suggest.