In his 1992 book, political scientist Francis Fukuyama notoriously argued we were witnessing the end of history – or at least as we knew it – with the fall of the Berlin Wall more than just symbolically ushering in a new chapter in our development. Fukuyama argued this signalled the end of mankind’s ideological evolution, as western liberal democracy finally triumphed over all other rival political ideologies.
Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s recent comments on the rise of the robots had a similar apocalyptic sentiment to it. He suggested up to 15 million British jobs could be replaced by robots over the coming years and livelihoods would be “mercilessly destroyed” by the current technological revolution.
So could the advancement in machine learning mean we now face another Berlin Wall moment? Could we be witnessing a new chapter, a notable new history, for the human race?
Such commentary is not all that new. In 2013, academic Carl Frey hypothesised that up to 47 per cent of US jobs were at high risk from automation.
Similarly, Richard and Daniel Susskind’s 2015 book The Future of Professions describes a world in which technology will transform the work of humans. Stephen Hawkins has also talked of the threat not just to our jobs but to our very existence as a species.
But in some way it felt more significant that such a powerful economic and political figure with as much insight as Carney took to uttering such profound words. Is it time we took note?
Nowhere more than financial services is the threat more relevant. Robo-advice is already prevalent throughout our industry. We are witnessing the dramatic rise of automation.
It is not too farfetched to see a world where the Silicon Valley giants – the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon – rule every fabric of our lives. After all, they already infiltrate most aspects of our daily routine.
With the rise of the chatbot, it is not too outlandish to foresee a time where you might ask your Echo (or other such device) to take out some life assurance or review your mortgage.
It could seamlessly arrange that for you, perhaps even prompting you to review it at certain times, knowing you have had a significant life event.
So where do we fit into this picture? Well, I guess that is up to us. My former economics teacher once wisely said: “Take control of your destiny or someone or something will take control of it for you.”
We can either help shape the future or risk being ruled by it. The choice is ours. But do not delay for too long, as the future is arriving quicker than ever before.
Mike Aldridge is sales director at London & Country