Disruptive Technologies

Overview —

Automation and other disruptive technologies are being rapidly deployed into economies and planning is required to adapt economic policies so as to avoid job losses.

This paper by engineer and independent Common Weal researcher Craig Berry examines the impact of these disruptive technologies and offers solutions that will protect workers and allow Scotland to capture the benefits of new technology and innovation.


Craig Berry

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Change in technology provides a fundamental capability for two things: digital connectivity, connecting more people together; and a set of tools and mechanisms for analysing the data associated with multiple aspects of daily life. The potential for utilising this is huge. The positives of being able to access any service you want, or physical asset or tool you need, when and where you need it; or being able to predict a serious health problem before it happens, and get the needed service – or an organ perfectly made just for you – wherever you are. However, there is a great deal of challenges with this also. What will happen to the sense of worth, place and contribution to society that people derive from work and have felt throughout history? Will individuals still have acceptable levels of privacy?

It is imperative to the success of our nation that we develop a coherent and sustainable strategy to understand automation. This paper has attempted to develop this strategy with the aim of producing a result which creates systems of public value.


― Many jobs in Scotland are or will soon be highly automatable. A new wave of development in computation puts many managerial and service jobs at risk.

― Up to a third of Scottish jobs may be replaceable by disruptive technologies such as automation.

― Whilst there is a strong correlation between the risk of disruption and media salary (with lower paid jobs at higher risk), the risk of replacement exists even for some highly paid jobs.

― There is a significant gender imbalance in automation risk. 34% of male workers are at risk of losing their job to automation compared to 26% of female workers.

― Several policies are proposed to mitigate the risk of disruption or to help people transition as jobs are replaced. These go beyond the normal political offer of “retraining” such as targeting investment to allow innovation, developing a cohesive industrial strategy for the 21st century, better workplace democracy to foster worker-led transitions, the creation of a Diversification Agency to reduce the risk of disruption across the economy and a Job Guarantee Scheme to support workers who do lose their job.

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