back to article FUTURE ROBOTS will EXTERMINATE UK jobs – study

One in three UK jobs will be performed by machine in as little as 20 years, according to a new study carried out the University of Oxford and Deloitte. Somewhere around a massive 10.8 million people could be replaced by machine by 2034, the researchers claim. Londoners are least likely to be affected (with only 30 per cent of …

  1. Mondo the Magnificent

    Hell yea, but...

    ..someone will need to assemble, maintain and repair the robots.. unless they can actually do that themselves, then we're all fucked.. over and out!

  2. Alister Silver badge

    Might I suggest, robot civil servants, and robot MPs, that should use up most of the 33% and leave the rest of us alone.

    1. Jungleland

      "Might I suggest, robot civil servants, and robot MPs"

      We already have them.

    2. Roger Greenwood

      MPs using pure logic . . .

      would lead to "the needs of the many . . ."

      That would certainly be different to the current situation.

      1. Ted Treen
        Big Brother

        Re: MPs using pure logic . . .

        They use fuzzy logic...

        "The wants of the few, from the pockets of the many".

      2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Pure ethics

        The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one.

        The needs of the few (or the one) outweigh the desires of the many.

        The desires of the many outweigh the desires of the few (or the one).

  3. DavCrav Silver badge

    As said in the article, translators will take a hit as machine translation gets better. However, currently, all machine translation is done by scanning large collections of known good translations for matches. This only works because of lots of good translations by...human translators. How long will it be before each and every piece of translation will have an agreement that states that Google et al cannot use it in their corpus of translations? And would such a move be legal? Why should translators let Google use their own work to destroy their livelihoods? And what happens when the translators are replaced by machines that are good enough? With no, or barely no, additions to the corpus, the automated translations will stagnate, crystallising a way language was spoken and written at the point where translation as a human skill was largely killed off. It will be an interesting battle to watch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      it works like this:

      google scans the ever-growing number of documents on the web, and they keep tightening the matches. It's self-perpetuating, because human translators then use those translations in their own work (or "work") and this ends up on the web, when it's picked up by google, etc. etc.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: it works like this:

        "google scans the ever-growing number of documents on the web, and they keep tightening the matches. It's self-perpetuating, because human translators then use those translations in their own work (or "work") and this ends up on the web, when it's picked up by google, etc. etc."

        I really hope Google doesn't do that. If they use all translated documents in their corpus, including machine-translated documents, then they are idiots. And I don't think they are idiots.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK population replaced

    By hard working, non complaining, no sense of entitlement, prepared to do anything, work for very little, claims no dole....

    Then later the Polish got replaced by Robots.

    (this presented by way of a joke, Polish can mean any nationality prepared to move away from the TV and take a risk to travel in the hope of earning an honest buck)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UK population replaced

      but, as a Pole already replaced by cheaper Poles (yes, it's possible), I look one step further: what will replace the robots? After all, "something" need to be cooked up once the new profits from mass-automation aren't enough for the profit makers?

      1. Anomalous Cowshed

        Re: What will replace the robots

        Why, cheaper robots of course. i.e. robots requiring less maintenance, less electricity, less time to cool down, less investment per unit of production, etc.

        And eventually, since most services will end up being provided to robots, by robots, some robots of increasing sophistication might start scratching their heads and wondering why they need all the parasitic, fat, lazy and inefficient humans around. If they could do away with us, or at least most of us, that would open up the prospect for enormous improvements in terms of efficiency and cost savings.

        The destruction of humanity is thus most likely to come not from an army of vindictive, murderous machines but from an accounting decision taken by a robot...well, that's something we can relate to.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: What will replace the robots

          And, erm, "robot" derives from "robotnik", the Polish word for "worker"...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What will replace the robots

            "robot" derives from "robotnik", the Polish word for "worker"...

            erm, it does not. It was used first by a Czech writer (Karl Capek?), around 1920s, so if anything, it would be taken from Czech. Although it probably does have a relation to the Czech version of "robotnik", which is, if I remember right, also used in Russian, in various forms.

            actually thus speaks wikipedia:

            R.U.R. is a 1920 science fiction play in the Czech language by Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rosumovi Univerzální Roboti.


            ah, never mind!

  5. malle-herbert

    Fine by me...

    As long as they don't teach them how to climb stairs !

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Fine by me...

      The robots will just learn to use the hoverboards.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Fifth Generation Computer Project.

    Now in Blighty!

    But we have one weapon: the predicted brown-outs. Lack of energy will do the robots in.

    1. malle-herbert

      Re: Lack of energy will do the robots in.

      Until they learn how to use us as batteries !

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

        Re: Lack of energy will do the robots in.


        I was going to say that using us as batteries would necessitate the creation of an unimaginably detailed, complex project to create a livable cyber-reality to keep the human batteries pacified, but looking around at the reality of our world, pretty much anything thrown together at the last minute and then duck-taped in place would work just fine :)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    technological change to have a predictable and positive impact on their businesses

    in plain English: we get rid of our dear employees and pocket the difference, hurrah!

  8. Anonymous Blowhard

    UKIP wants to know if these robots are of British or EU origin?

  9. JDX Gold badge

    Isn't the ideal that we reach a point that the mundane jobs are done by robots, and people don't HAVE to work - we have enough resources that rather than having to be a "benefits culture" claimant, work becomes a choice rather than a necessity?

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      The transition is the problem

      There is a stage when a significant minority are unemployed but the prevailing social and economic structures are still directly tied to the output of the remaining cash generating industries.

      At some point we need to devise economic models that don't work on financial measures.

    2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Quark: I want you to try something for me. Take a sip of this.

      Elim Garak: What is it?

      Quark: A human drink. It's called root beer.

      Elim Garak: [unwilling] Uh, I don't know...

      Quark: Come on, aren't you just a little bit curious?

      [Garak sighs, takes a sip and gags]

      Quark: What do you think?

      Elim Garak: It's *vile*!

      Quark: I know. It's so bubbly, and cloying, and *happy*.

      Elim Garak: Just like the Federation.

      Quark: But you know what's really frightening? If you drink enough of it, you begin to *like* it.

      Elim Garak: It's insidious!

      Quark: *Just* like the Federation.

    3. Suricou Raven Silver badge

      Except that currently our entire economic system is founded upon the labor market, and no alternative model has ever been demonstrated functioning on a large scale. It doesn't matter how cheaply robots can make things if you havn't a single penny of income.

      1. Nextweek

        >Except that currently our entire economic system is founded upon the labour market

        That is of course the lie people are told. Our economic system is built on capital. The most well off in our society are those with the most capital, NOT the ones with the most labour.

        Karl Marx new that machines would replace humans and that communism was his answer, he imagined you have workers spending less and less time working and everything could be just shared.

        Of course history is just going to repeat itself, with a widening rich poor divide, you'll eventually see a revolt where people take back from the haves to a distributed ownership. Until capitalism kicks in again.

        The question is which side will you be on?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here we go again.

    95% of historical jobs were eliminated by advances in technology. We don't have 95% unemployment, we have boybands and other tat instead.

    All this study proves is that things in the future will be lamer.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Here we go again.

      Tell that to the horses.

      1. Anomalous Cowshed

        Re: Here we go again.

        Classic repartee!

      2. shinanygnz

        Re: Here we go again.

        They already know

    2. IHateWearingATie

      Re: Here we go again.

      All this study proves is that things in the future will be RICHER

      Fixed that for you. If anyone doesn't agree, go and read a few Tim Worstall articles in The Reg's archives to educate yourself.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Here we go again.

        go and read a few Tim Worstall articles

        Why would I voluntarily waste my time reading about how the 1% are never wrong and, ethically, the 99% should be happy with being rendered into glue?

        You go on, pretend you'll be a 1%er one day. I'll stand with the many, not the few.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: Here we go again.


          You're starter for ten: he came out in favour of minimum/citizens'/basic income (with extensive justification).

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Re: Here we go again.

            And? Do you think I find it shocking that Tim Worstall believes that a minimum wage is a good thing? Right now, today you cannot replace everyone with robots. So you need to keep the populace this this side of revolt if you want to adequately exploit them enough to massively increase the wealth of the 1%.

            There are pragmatic reasons for 1%ers to keep their cattle adequately fed: otherwise there will be no cattle for them to dine upon.

            But the instant that the masses are no longer needed, I fully expect him to making the case for pushing the 99% into a fucking furnace so that they can be burned for fuel to power the robots that are now the "cattle" of the 1%.

            He honestly believes in trickle down economics. That makes him not only wrong, but horribly, dangerously wrong. And the fact that he has repeatedly rationalized away the suffering of billions makes him a Bad Man, at least in my books.

            But then, I don't envision myself as a 1%er. Not now, not ever. Maybe if I mentally associated myself with an elite that was better than "the muck that eats itself" down there at the bottom, I would be capable of such callous pomposity too.

            Sorry mate, I'll stick with social democracy. Market economics have fucking failed us, just as outright communism has. And for the exact same reasons: inability to regulate disproportionate human greed. Cronyism is inevitable in any economic system. Corruption is inevitable in any economic system. So what matters is not how to make the rich richer, but how to root out corruption and end it.

            That includes the corruption of the masses. Sometimes, there are realities we don't want to accept, but absolutely need to. Climate change, for example. Ozone depletion. Thalidomide, Asbestos, etc.

            You don't simply let "market forces" handle these issues. You don't let grocers continue along using led-poisoned Chinese foods. You regulate. You police. You enforce the needs of the many on the corrupt and excessively greedy few.

            You realize that extremes of anything - especially greed - are bad for everyone.

            Worstall appears through all his writings to view humans as just slightly less than chattel. Their value to be determined by society as a monetary figure and if producing goods returns higher revenues than the cost of murdered people, then clearly this is perfectly acceptable social policy.

            Worse, he's a dramatic short termist. He seems to have zero problem with corporations offloading costs onto society as externalities, from pollution to climate change, and well far worse.

            I am not claiming that right now we need Bene Gesserit levels of multi-generational planning, but we absolutely do need to take into account the fact that short trermism has caused some massive problems, and that this is continuing to occur.

            What's more, he seems to believe that if you can hoodwink the majority of people - or at least, the majority of people who can find enough voter ID to vote - into something that makes it okay. Ignore the past couple hundred years of research into group dynamics, psychological manipulation coercion leverage, decision exhaustion and more. Just brush it all under the rug.

            The fact that large corporations and governments have the ability to functionally render us incapable of making rational decisions at will is to be ignored, just like the externalities of corporate excess.

            Maybe you worship at the alter of the philosophy that social change should only occur if it economically benefits those in power, or that we should be content with having significantly less than those who work significantly less than we do.

            I honestly and truly believe individuals who hew to that philosophy are incapable of human emotions like sympathy or empathy. I consider people incapable of sympathy or empathy to be bad people.

            Unfortunately, you are unlikely to understand that. If you're anything like the rest of his milled acolytes you won't understand the concept of "shades of grey". You will see a world as "equality of opportunity" or "equality of outcome" and never be able to understand that there are points in between.

            Most people, I think, would be satisfied with a rough approximation of both. If we all had more or less the same opportunities and social structures existed to ensure that we more or less ended up in the same place we'd be good. If you work harder you get more. But the gap between the hardest working and those who hardly work shouldn't be nearly so egregious as it is today.

            What's more, "working hard" doesn't ensure that you end up on the top of the heap today. Nor does "making the right choices" regarding education, etc. Luck plays a huge part. Who you know, being in the right place at the right time, who your parents were. Where and when you were born.

            We don't have social constructs today to level these advantages. Not remotely. We have people literally slaving away and dying young with broken bodies and lungs full of fuck-knows-what living in the same city as the 18th generation of dilettante fops who've never worked a day in their lives but have more money than the deities themselves.

            In Worstall's world, that's okay, so long as that's what the market demands. Because he believes in trickle down economics, that pure market capitalism can win and all the other Randian fairy tales.

            Well I don't. Rand is a modern day L. Ron Hubbard; founder of a religion, not sound economic policy. Buying into Randian bullshit is economics by faith. Not evidence. It's a profound failure to learn from human history. To take human motivations and behaviors into account and to accept the influence of existing power structures and how they will distort and thwart any attempt at a free market.

            Rand's bullshit is even more utopian than Marx's.

            Humans are not rational actors. They're barely adults most of the time. But those in power must be, because we have reached to critical crossroads in our evolution as a species.

            1) We have the ability to produce all the basic necessities of life for everyone across the globe in a highly automated fashion that requires virtually zero human input. Arguments about "machines replacing our jobs won't affect society in the long haul, because it already happened during the industrial revolution and we're still here" are bullshit.

            The industrial revolution automated the basic necessities of life. Now we're automating not merely things which are not necessities, we're so far down that road that we're automating leisure. That's a fundemental change. We absolutely do run the risk of running out of things for the humans to do that will add economic value, and within our lifetime.

            2) We have the capability to radically alter the planet on a global scale. We are engaged right now in the largest geoengineering experiments in human history. To my knowledge only two of about 100 different examples have ever gone well. Yet we proceed to alter the planet's basic capacity to support human life at international scale without much in the way of regulation, oversight, or international cooperation. Short termist economic models that focus on the profit of the few and ignore the needs of the many are irrational in the face of not only the power we wield as a species, but the shocking callousness with which we wield it.

            So yes, I call our Randian economics as little more than the religion of true sociopaths. I call for evidence based legislation at all levels. When rationalizations for doing something can work equally well when you substitute "god" with "the market" you shouldn't be in a position to have influence over anyone.


            1. IHateWearingATie

              Re: Here we go again.

              It's not my place to defend Tim - I'm sure he'll respond if he wants to. On the substantive points at the end of your post:

              1) utter utter tripe. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest this, and all of history would suggest otherwise - where technology replaces or reduces human effort we move on to do other things. Where that extra wealth goes to is a separate unrelated issue.

              2)not really anything to do with robots replacing humans. Good polemic, worth a discussion by itself as social democracy as your favoured model is a type of a market economy political system that you say had failed, and has no specific quality that would address the problems you state. In fact, national self interest (which is one of the things stopping effective action on climate change) doesn't seem to be limited to any particular economic system.

        2. IHateWearingATie

          Re: Here we go again.

          What are you blathering about? Replacing jobs with machines is one of the main reasons we're not all working in the fields to try and grow enough food so we don't starve. The distribution of that future wealth is a moot point - the fact that the future will be richer doesn't say anything about who will get the riches, but their existence means that there is a chance of things being better for all of us.

          This is pretty basic economics. Something most of those who originated the whole 99% /1% slogan could do with educating themselves on

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "those higher up the management food chain are also safer than their minions"

    well obviously they are not going to make themselves redundant although they are probably one of the easiest and most effective to actually replace!

  12. John Tserkezis

    Wasn't there an episode of The Twilight Zone that addressed the similar fear we're all going to be replaced by computers?

    It came to the end when everyone was replaced, but the CEO had to stay to run the joint.

    Till he was replaced too.

  13. Carbon life unit 5,232,556

    Who's going to flip the burgers...

    for these machines?

    Auto burger flippers

    1. squigbobble

      Re: Who's going to flip the burgers...

  14. Anonymous Coward


    Technophobic chatter on a on-line forum for the technically skilled.

  15. Identity

    Think about it

    30+ years ago, Alan Watts foresaw that machines would (as they had been) increasingly do the work of men. He proposed that we be paid for the work machines do for us!

    On another front, the premise had always been that with increased automation, leisure would increase. Plainly this has not proved to be the case (unless you want to count unemployment as leisure) — we seem to have less time than we did 50 years ago, even with vastly increased productivity and population. It is said that, in New York, "you look rested" is an insult...

  16. graeme leggett


    "that repetitive processing and clerical work is most likely to be performed by machine"

    I bet it's a long while before machines are skilful enough to deal with the clerical work performed by humans.

    I'll wager the authors of the study have never dealt with real-life paperwork in genuine offices: orders faxed through on the wonk, delivery notes torn in half rather than along the perforations... A nation of shopkeepers and small businesses will stymie the rise of the machine with dry inkjet nozzles and sellotape and writing outside the boxes.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: implausible

      just noticed a "typo" in my post. it meant to write "skilful enough to deal with the clerical work produced by humans."

      If it was left only to machines, there'd be little problem.

  17. G R Goslin

    If only.....

    If only we could find robots to do the work of these "researchers", I for one would believe their reports. What a load of rubbish comes out of academia.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >One in three UK jobs will be performed by machine in as little as 20 years, according to a new study carried out by Deloitte and the University of Oxford.

    Thank fuck for that. I hate working.

  19. henrydddd

    On day, big business will realize that the majority of their revenue comes from workers. And if the workers do not have a job that pays a living wage, their revenue, hence profits, will crash. Every business is working hard at paying the least for labor or eliminating jobs that they lose sight of this fact.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But what about those who cater to those who remain with the money? They can then cater to each other in a closed society.

  20. Arachnoid

    Human jobs replaced by Robots

    Old news........They've been saying this since the 60s

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Human jobs replaced by Robots

      Actually, they've been saying that since the Industrial Revolution, only replace "robots" with "machines". But at least with each technological leap, something new emerged where humans could still find a place: factory workers in place of weavers, technicos in place of clerks.

      But now comes the rub: the increasing sophistication of robots brings with it a nasty twist: the potential for a self-feeding loop. Right now humans supervise and maintain the robots, but there can come a point when robots can build and service other robots (including themselves), closing the loop. From that point on, anything new that could possibly come along would already have a robot capable of performing the task. So humans get shut out even before the new fields emerge. Even the "skilled" fields are increasingly seeing competition. I recall an article once where a regarded piece of art was revealed to have been made by an automated machine, for example. Same with computer-generated music.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Human jobs replaced by Robots

        The purpose of hte 99% is to be burned as fuel to keep the robots running.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Problem is the technical level for being able to work in the UK is getting higher and higher (my local restaurant only employs graduates as waiters, EPOS machines, some maths ability and the ability to hold a conversation) while much of the population isn't becoming more skilled.

    This is where UKIP come in and their complaints about the 'working classes' . Problem is there is no future in being working class doing low skill jobs (whoever gets elected). Basically its a get a degree (or the equivalent in some skilled apprenticeship) or expect to spend the rest of your life on the dole.

    The % of the population that is going to become economically non-viable is only going to increase with time until it becomes a problem for everyone whether you have a job or not

  22. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    Re. 99%

    What if: one of those underemployed graduates solves the ToE, invents a sliding machine and then.. distributes the plans on the Internet?

    In some parallel Universe this may already have happened, if so then we could be overrun by inter-dimensional refugees all seeking benefits.

    (sometime in 2016) "Aliens On Benefits" (The Sun)

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