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The Elixir of Life

Another night, another ‘Leaders Debate,’ or more accurately, it’s BBC Question Time tonight with a ‘Carefully selected’ audience. Sorry BBC but on past experience one can reasonably expect a studio audience somewhat to the left of Marx; I exaggerate of course but tonight, perhaps I will be proved wrong?

What does make me cringe, and it’s common to all political parties in this General Election, is the use of ‘Skills’ or more accurately, how any Party plans to solve the ‘Skills’ problem.

Head and shoulders above his rivals and still very much catching-up with the 21st century, is Mr Corbyn, who clearly has very little idea of what the world might look like in five years, let alone ten.

I grew-up in the 1960s and 1970s. They are gone now. It wasn’t a great time for Britain’s economy and I remember doing my homework by candlelight when it was our turn for a power cut.

I was extraordinarily lucky in being sent to an American university to study; no power cuts there and one day, meeting Harold Wilson, who was introduced to me after delivering a lecture. I was reluctant to shake his hand, knowing full well the misery his Government had inflicted on my family and others back home.

Back to ‘Skills’ then and no political leader of any Party wishes to discuss ‘Lights-out factories’ or robots and artificial intelligence. Of course, they’ve all been told that the jobs that once employed millions, will soon be given over to algorithms and silicon and while the acceleration may appear slow today, it’s following what appears to be a steady upward curve, which coincides roughly with the year 2025.

I was struck by one Channel 4 news reporter visiting a former steel town and talking to local men and women who had lost their jobs and who had been advised to seek ’New skills.’

What skills are these I wonder? Machine language developer? intelligence engineer? In fact does anyone actually know what jobs will be safe from the wave of automation washing across the developed economies?

Don’t expect any answers from our politicians who are too busy fighting old battles; the NHS, education, welfare , all framed in a well-established battle language ordinary people understand and even expect.  None of these political careerists really want to confront the really difficult questions, simply because few or none of them can answer them with any accuracy or indeed honesty.

Back in the 19th century, some patent medicines, like “The Elixir of Life” sold by a Dr. James W. Kidd, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, went so far as to promise immortality, deliverance from the greatest fear of all. With only a week before our next General Election, this is possibly the only promise that none of the political parties will try and offer the electorate in return for their vote; although I might not put it past UKIP?

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