Friday, 28 June 2013

Big trends that will change the UK No. 3: Greater computer power making the rich richer

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My eldest daughter is three years old. I like to think I know most of what is going on in her life. But whenever her grandmother comes to stay I notice things I hadn’t spotted; “she’s so much bigger”, “she can have a real conversation”, “her balance is better”.

While I notice the everyday changes, it is her grandmother – who sees her every couple of months – who sees the big trends. Big trends that I tend not to spot. 

This week on the blog, we’re exploring three big trends in the UK. Three trends that will each make a significant difference to our society. Three trends that make it even more important to invest in bringing people together.

Trend three: Greater computer power making the rich richer

In 1965, a computer scientist called Gordon Moore made a bold prediction. Noticing the advances in computing, he published a paper that predicted that the speed of computer chips would double in speed every 18 months. Almost 50 years later, ‘Moore’s Law’ still holds true. 

This revolution in computing power has made real changes to our lives. Most importantly it has radically changed the world of work. Jobs that previously employed large numbers of lower skilled labour (typists, factory workers) are now increasingly delivered by computers or machines.

Over the next fifty years, ‘Moore’s Law’ will enable computers to perform much more complex tasks. Increasingly jobs that have been the preserve of skilled labour will be done by computers.  Advances in voice recognition and artificial intelligence will mean more and more businesses will rely on computers to manage diaries or book flights (rather than assistants) and more individuals will have tiny computers they can attach to themselves to diagnose ailments (rather than using doctors). 

These changes will start to push down wages for skilled workers – just as previous changes have for unskilled labour. The benefits will move increasingly to the owners and designers of the machines and those with more unique skills that computers cannot match (yet). 

The result will be a growing inequality as wages fall for many and rise dramatically for the few. 

Without action, over the coming decades, the UK will see its population further divide between the wealthy and the rest. Each moving in their own world, with different schools, neighbourhoods and social lives. 

All the more reason for us to invest now in ways to ensure we do not divide when this happens. To ensure there are spaces where we come together and remind ourselves we are still one country. To make certain that no child can become an adult in this country without truly understanding the lives of others – no matter their parents’ pay packet.


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