The cash machine turned 50 last week — old enough, I think, to teach us a few lessons about the dawning of a new machine age. It seems a good advertisement for practical innovation that makes life a little easier. But with its very name a promise to replace a human being, the "automated teller machine" seems a harbinger of mass technological unemployment. The story of the robot takeover has become familiar: robots came first for the bank tellers, and I did not speak out, for I was not a bank teller. Then overnight the robots were driving trucks, performing legal research and interpreting mammographic X-rays. The only jobs remaining were those writing books with titles such as Race Against the Machine and The Rise of the Robots. The difficulty with these visions of technological joblessness is that there are plenty of jobs around at the moment. In the UK, the employment rate is nearly 75%; it hasn’t been higher since records began in 1971. The job situation is not quite so rosy in th...

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