When robots rule the world

I HAVE just told my grandson – he’s aged 5 – that he should be a publican when he grows up. Now you might think this is self-interest, that I might hope to get the odd free drink when I’m visiting. But in fact, I’m making the suggestion in his own best interest.

Turns out that publican or manager of licensed premises is the bottom of the list in the jobs most likely to be taken over by a robot.

The BBC Online story, quoting research by Oxford University and Deloitte, says that about 35% of jobs currently in the UK are at risk of computerisation over the next 20 years. At the top of the list is telephone salesperson, closely followed by typists and other keyboard workers including admin workers like legal secretary, payroll clerk, finance officer and so on.

Bottom of the list, at no 366, is publican. I always said, as I chatted to the bloke behind the bar, that it was a fine profession.

The BBC site offers the opportunity to type in your job and get your risk assessment. I typed in journalist, which is what I did before the pleasures of retirement, and discovered that it was 285 on the list, an automation risk of 8.5%.

I thought it might be because of the close relationship that journalists have with pubs, but according to the researchers, jobs at least risk of automation are those requiring creativity, or social intelligence and negotiating skills – just like me and my pal behind the bar.

To the Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers like myself, robots were things encountered in science fiction books as we grew up. I love the fact that throughout history, writers have depicted robots as harbingers of doom and destruction rather than benefit to mankind. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Marvin the Paranoid Android (pictured) is afflicted with depression and boredom because his brain – the size of a planet – is given so little to do.

Perhaps all that is about to change. We are finally going to give robots some real jobs. Our jobs. But just not the publican’s.

Len Horne

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