The Rise of Automation in the UK
Posted on: 11/02/2022
What is Automation?
Automation is the process of using technology to minimise human involvement in the process of a task. One famous example is robotics, which has been around for decades but is only recently becoming widespread. A new generation of industrial robots can be programmed to work with humans rather than simply following predefined paths. This allows them to perform tasks that require complex movements, including fine manipulation, picking up and placing objects, or even lifting heavy loads.
Another area where automation has had an impact is in production lines. Companies such as Toyota have long used automated conveyors to speed up their assembly processes. They can now build cars at a rate of over 100 per hour, compared with just 20 per hour when they were first introduced. Such innovations are helping companies reduce costs, increase productivity and boost profits. However, while robotics and conveyor systems are all well-established technologies, it’s the application of artificial intelligence (AI) that is proving most exciting. AI refers to software programs that are able to think like humans. These programs can learn from experience and evolve through self-improvement algorithms. Some companies have started using AI to improve their own products, allowing them to create new products that are better suited to customer needs. For example, Google DeepMind has developed an AI system that learns how to play Atari video games without being told what moves to make. This means that game developers don’t need to program every single action manually, saving time and money. It also gives programmers access to a new set of tools that will allow them to experiment with different approaches to problem solving. In this way, the development of AI could help create new jobs in the future.
UK Government Involvement
The government has invested heavily in developing new technologies such as smart grids and driverless vehicles. The smart grid uses sensors to monitor electricity usage and send out automatic alerts if demand exceeds supply. Driverless cars use cameras, lasers and radar to detect obstacles and maintain a safe distance between each other. All these technologies are already in widespread use elsewhere, so the UK is unlikely to lag behind its European neighbours. However, despite some successes, there are still concerns about whether Britain has the right skills to take advantage of these developments. Automation has the potential to drive unemployment and inequality, especially among older workers who may find themselves unable to adapt quickly enough to new employment opportunities.
Although AI and robotics are becoming increasingly important, human ingenuity remains vital for any successful industry. Indeed, it’s often argued that innovation is the key factor that determines economic success. In the past, technological advances were usually driven by governments, but nowadays entrepreneurs and businesses are responsible for much of the progress we see today. This shift away from state intervention towards a more entrepreneurial model was seen across Europe during the 1980s and 1990s, leading to a significant improvement in living standards.
The UK is well placed to benefit from this trend. Its relatively open economy makes it easier for foreign companies to enter the market, and its flexible labour markets mean that new industries can easily develop. The country has one of the highest levels of venture capital investment in Europe and has a strong tradition of entrepreneurship. But there are still concerns about the UK’s ability to compete with countries such as China and India. Many economists believe that Britain has lost ground to these economies since the financial crisis. However, recent figures show that the UK has regained some of its former position, largely due to a rise in exports. It seems likely that the country will continue to attract business investment in the coming years.
What is the outlook for automation?
It’s hard to predict exactly what the future holds for automation, but the latest research suggests that we’re heading into a period of profound change. According to McKinsey & Company, we’ll soon see the arrival of a “fourth industrial revolution”, which will transform the way we live, work and consume. This fourth wave of technological advancement will be driven by three main factors: the spread of cheap energy; the availability of cheap computing power; and the evolution of AI. These changes will usher in a new era of prosperity for everyone, but they will also pose significant challenges for policymakers. If we fail to prepare for them, our societies could suffer serious consequences.