THE replacement of people in the workplace by machines has been feared throughout history. During the Industrial Revolution, workers known as Luddites attacked and destroyed the machines that threatened their jobs.Yet while mechanisation did bring great hardship to the cottage weavers and spinners, fears of widespread unemployment proved unfounded. Mechanisation brought about rising prosperity and demand for new products and services. Lower production costs meant lower prices, which generated greater demand for goods previously affordable only to the wealthy.As a result, the new machines set the scene for massive increases in jobs, wages and prosperity unequalled in history.Today, the increased use of computers, robots and artificial intelligence in the workplace is generating similar concerns about job losses. It is argued that robots might even remove the need for the skilled machine operators who benefited from previous mechanisation.A recent article in the Financial Times observ...

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