Office automation is about to lead to a 'massacre of the Dilberts'

Screenshot/Youtube/Bobby JonesDilbert (R) with his co-worker Wally (L) in the eponymous cartoon.

  • Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned of the risks of automation pushing workers out of low-skilled jobs, Bloomberg reported.
  • In a speech in Canada, Carney called the phenomenon the “massacre of the Dilberts” – referring to an American comic strip featuring a tech engineer named Dilbert.
  • Carney’s comments come in the same week that EY warned 330,000 jobs in London are at risk of automation.

LONDON – Bank of England governor Mark Carney said that the world is heading for “massacre of the Dilberts” as technology forces white-collar workers to learn new skills, according to a Bloomberg report.

Referring to the cartoon strip “Dilbert” – which features a tech engineer named Dilbert and his colleagues – Carney told an audience in Toronto that a large number of what he called “routine cognitive jobs,” are at risk.

Such jobs, he said, could soon be done by computer programmes, before pointing to the fact that more and more tasks in the workplace are being done not by people, but by computers.

“When I look back 30 years ago, what I used to do it in the City of London when I worked at an investment bank, probably about three-quarters of what I did is now done by machine,” he said, in remarks reported by Bloomberg’s Fergal O’Brien and Maciej Onoszko.

“It is a relentless process of moving a series of decisions that are made by humans to machines.”

Jobs such as data entry, Carney said, are likely to become a thing of the past, saying that scores of workers will need to retrain to obtain skills that are useful when simple, repetitive tasks need no longer be done by a human being.

Policymakers, Carney said, need to: “Get a grip on the scale of the problem. Assess and address.”

Carney’s speech comes in the same week that a report by Centre for London and the consultancy EY argued that as many as 330,000 jobs in London could be at risk from automation.

“The next decade will see an acceleration in the pace of technological change like no other and all businesses should be prepared,” Caroline Artis, a partner at EY said.

Low to mid-skilled jobs will be the first affected and some of the sectors most at risk are those heavily dependent on EU migration, including wholesale, retail, transportation, storage, accommodation and food – which together employ around one million people.

Also this week, a report from Barclays argued that Carney’s own profession, central banking, will be forced to change thanks to the rise of technology, with the way central banks conduct policy set to shift.

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