Despite fears over artificial intelligence, so far, according to a new study, technology has created more jobs than it's destroyed.
The study by economists at Deloitte looked at the relationship between jobs and the rise of technology since the latter stages of the industrial revolution, using census data for England and Wales between 2011 and 1871. The economists concluded that technology has been "the great job-creating machine".
The study argues that the debate over technology and labour has focused too heavily on the former's destructive effects and seeks to redress that imbalance by revisiting old jobs data.
"The mood now is once again of caution. Advances in machine learning and enormous increases in storage, processing and communication capacity are enabling machines to tackle complex tasks involving thought and judgement, which were once the sole preserve of humans. Jobs are being automated more quickly, or made less labour intensive," the authors Ian Stewart, Debapratim De, and Alex Cole write.
While technology may have allowed some industries such as agriculture and manufacturing to replace human workers with machines, the authors took the overall rise in the number of services jobs over recent decades -- such as bar tenders and hairdressers -- as a sign that technology had boosted spending power and therefore created new demand and new jobs.
"The dominant trend is of contracting employment in agriculture and manufacturing being more than offset by rapid growth in the caring, creative, technology and business services sectors," the report says.
"Machines will continue to reduce prices, democratising what was once the preserve of the affluent and furnishing the income for increased spending in new and existing areas. Machines will take on more repetitive and laborious tasks, but seem no closer to eliminating the need for human labour than at any time in the last 150 years," it adds.
The study comes amid growing debate over whether in artificial intelligence poses a different threat than the machines that came before it, for example fears that Uber will one day replace its drivers with a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles.
Some, like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, think AI could spell the end of mankind while others see software over the next two decades eating up jobs in transport and logistics, administration, anything involved in making things, and some of the higher value service jobs of today, such as accounting.
The new report however found with rising automation and a lower reliance on human muscle power -- and a decline in cleaners, domestic servants, labourers and miners jobs -- there was a huge rise in health and teaching professionals, particularly in the past two decades.
Technology had also boosted productivity and employment in some sectors including medicine, education and professional services. Though the time may soon be up for accountants, they noted that 1871 census records contained 9,832 accountants in England Wales, which rose to 215,678 in 2011.
"Easy access to information and the accelerating pace of communication have revolutionised most knowledge-based industries," say the authors.
The other major benefit of technology has been to cut the real price of consumer goods, such as food, TVs, appliances and cars, leaving more money to spend on these items and other things such as grooming, which in turn explained the rise in hairdressers per capita.
One factor not discussed in the report is the role of international trade on the price of consumer goods, which is an equally important to falling prices as technology.
Other studies have shown that since the 1970s worker productivity and private employment have closely tracked each other, but since 2000 private employment has fallen away dramatically, potentially signalling computers are having a different impact. alongside growing income inequality within nations and between nations.