Michael Weatherburn explores the historical development of digital technology in the UK workplace in this report.
Amidst the geopolitical turmoil facing the world in the second half of the 2010s, economists, academics, think tanks, politicians, political parties, trade unions, industrial bodies, and activist groups have been increasingly focusing on an important factor in 21st Century global political economy: the past, present and future of work. Usually, the anticipated future absence of work is a particular concern. Often connected to such phenomena as big data, artificial intelligence, data mining, 3D printing, machine learning, and the internet of things, predictions for just how many jobs in Western-style economies are at high risk from digital technology vary from 10 per cent to 47 per cent.
Other, related yet confusing phenomena pepper the news on an almost daily basis. At the time of writing, news stories covering technology and/or the economy include: takeaway website Just Eat leapfrogged the supermarket giant Sainbury's on the FTSE 100; the travel technology firm Uber, and similar firms, have recently been banned in London on safety grounds, with 40,000 Uber driver jobs at risk; even more urgently, Bitcoin soars past $16,000, up from $1,000 earlier in 2017, with many warning of a bubble about to burst at any moment, and others noting the immense energy consumption of each cryptocurrency transaction.