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  • Neil: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Neil.

  • Finn: and I'm Finn. Hello.

  • Neil: Hello there, Finn. Now, what do you know about robots?

  • Finn: Robots? Well, they talk in a funny way... like that!

  • Neil: Yes. You sound quite convincing there actually, Finn.

  • Finn: Do you like it?

  • Neil: Yes, I do. Is there anything else you know about robots?

  • Finn: Well, there are... there are a couple of good ones in the Star Wars, aren't there?

  • Neil: Oh, yes. R2-D2 and C-3PO. C-3PO talks in quite a human voice.

  • Finn: He does. But of course that's science fiction not real life.

  • Neil: No. But things have moved on in real life.

  • The use of machines to do work that people do

  • or used to do is called automation and that's the subject of today's show.

  • Finn : But before we talk more about this, l'd like you, Neil, to answer today's quiz question.

  • What makes a job more likely to be done by robots? Is it if a job involves...

  • a) manipulating small objects?

  • b) working in open spaces?

  • Or c) social and emotional skills?

  • Neil: Hmm... OK. Well, I'm going to guess. Manipulating small objects, I think.

  • Finn: Interesting. OK, we'll find out if you're right or wrong later on.

  • Now, two UK academics have calculated how susceptible to

  • that means likely to be affected by

  • how susceptible to automation each job is based on some key skills.

  • And these include negotiation, persuasion, caring for others, originality, and manual dexterity

  • now that means being good with your hands.

  • Neil: So do you think intelligent machines could replace us?

  • Finn: Well, maybe you, Neil. Not me, no. I have all the key skills you know

  • I'm original... persuasive... of course very caring and very good with my hands as well, I think.

  • Neil: Well I'm very glad that you're safe, Finn!

  • Finn: Thank you.

  • Neil: However, a study from Oxford University has suggested that 35% of existing UK jobs

  • are being automated in the next 20 years.

  • Let's listen to Michael Osborne from Oxford University talking about this.

  • Michael Osborne: Computers are increasingly able to learn in a way

  • that in short has been a reserve of human beings.

  • So in their ability to learn, computers are able to perform a much wider range of tasks

  • than they've been able to do in the past.

  • So as a result it's not just manual labour that's coming under threat of automation.

  • It's increasingly cognitive labourthe labour of the mind.

  • Finn: Michael Osborne. And cognitive labour means using your nogginthat's using your head!

  • So computers and machines are also using their noggins and getting smarter.

  • And office workers who do repetitive jobs such as drawing up spreadsheets

  • could be replaced with software.

  • But surely jobs like being a doctor or a lawyer are safe, Neil?

  • Neil: Well, some white-collar jobs may be less safe than you think.

  • At one city law firm junior staff have to read through contracts, assessing them for risks.

  • But now an artificial intelligence programme can do that faster and better.

  • Finn: So white collar refers to a job that you do at an office rather than a factory.

  • And artificial intelligence refers to a computer's ability to copy intelligent human behaviour.

  • Now let's listen to Matthew Whalley from a city law firm to find out what he thinks.

  • Matthew Whalley: What you're seeing the robot do now, the robot can do in three seconds

  • what would take a group of lawyers days to do.

  • And the advantage is that it can do huge volumes, incredibly reliably in unbelievable times.

  • There is a huge amount of this work to do

  • and lawyers have far better higher-value legal analysis to worry about.

  • Neil: Well he thinks that there is work for the lawyers and the computers.

  • In fact it sounds like a good division of labour

  • the computers do the boring stuff and the lawyers do the more interesting work!

  • Finn: Yes. Well, let's keep our fingers crossed that we've got good prospects.

  • You know, I don't want our listeners to

  • (robot voice) start listening to robot presenters any time soon!

  • Neil: Indeed, we need! We talk about keeping our fingers crossed when we hope that things

  • are going to turn out in the way we want them to in the future.

  • Finn: That's right. So shall we hear the answer to today's quiz question? Neil, I asked you:

  • What makes a job more likely to be done by robots? Is it if a job involves...

  • a) manipulating small objects? b) working in open spaces? Or c) social and emotional skills?

  • Neil: Well, I said a) manipulating small objects... and I'm keeping my fingers crossed

  • that I've got the right answer.

  • Finn: OK. You're keeping them crossed?

  • Neil: Yes, I am.

  • Finn: You've got the answer right! Well done!

  • Neil: Brilliant! I'm glad my cognitive skills are still functioning.

  • Now, how about hearing those words again?

  • Finn: OK, the words we heard today were:

  • automation

  • susceptible to

  • manual dexterity

  • cognitive labour

  • noggin

  • white collar

  • artificial intelligence (AI)

  • and ... keeping your fingers crossed

  • Neil: Well, that brings us to the end of this 6 Minute English.

  • We hope you enjoyed the programme. Please join us again soon.

  • Both: Bye.

Neil: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Neil.

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BBC 6 Minute English October 15, 2015 - Will robots take our jobs?

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