Whitaker Lecture – We must be bold and adapt to make sure the Fourth Industrial Revolution benefits all

Governor Mark Carney

We must be bold and adapt, and apply the lessons of the first three industrial revolutions to ensure that the fourth results in a future that benefits all.

This was the view expressed by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, who delivered the eighth Whitaker Lecture at the Central Bank Dockland Campus on Friday 14 September.

The annual lecture commemorates TK Whitaker, the influential economist and civil servant who served as the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland from 1969 to 1976.

In a speech entitled “The Future of Work”, Governor Carney explored the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which he said had the potential to transform the nature of work and commerce through advances in AI, automation and interconnectedness.

Carney said that if the Fourth Industrial Revolution followed a similar path to past technological revolutions its overall effect would be to create new jobs and boost productivity and wages.

Before then however, as with other periods of great technological change, Carney said the Fourth Industrial Revolution would likely result in a period of unemployment, dislocation and rising inequality.

“The fundamental challenge is that alongside the great benefits they ultimately bring, every technological revolution mercilessly destroys jobs and livelihoods – and therefore identities – well before the new ones emerge,” he said.

To manage the transition and shorten the time lag involved, Carney said we should learn from the readiness to adapt shown by Whitaker whose career in public policy also spanned a period of profound change.

Carney compared the challenges presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution to those Whitaker faced in enacting the major structural reforms and changes to Ireland’s institutions which were instrumental in Ireland’s economic development.

“Whitaker’s life work reminds us that achieving lasting economic prosperity requires us to be bold and to adapt. To do so, we need to have the right institutions in place, so that everyone can share in the gains,” said Carney.

“Such adaptability will be particularly important as both our economies embark on a new era of technological change and new degrees of openness,” he added.

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