When I was a boy in Scotland there was a comic paper called The Eagle. Its front page story every week featured Dan Dare, a spaceman. In Dan Dare’s time technology had developed to the point where people only needed to work part time, spending the rest of the week enjoying themselves. What went wrong? Technological development has vastly improved productivity, but we haven’t managed to share out the work. Those in employment tend to work full time and more, and the leisure is concentrated in that unfortunate group we call the unemployed. Get ready for another round of technology-induced leisure time.

The Economist of 1 February 2014 tells us (almost as an aside) “As machine learning leaves the lab and goes into practice, it will threaten white-collar, knowledge-worker jobs just as machines, automation and assembly lines destroyed factory jobs in the 19th and 20th centuries. For example, the technique has been applied by researchers at Stanford University to tell whether a biopsy of breast cells is highly cancerous, something that until now has required a human expert to assess.” Don’t you think that if machine learning can get computers to that point, it might also be able to work out what the best printer to send a particular book to might be, and then cut the purchase order, or whether all the verbs in this manuscript agree with all the subjects, and that the titles and authors of all the books referred to in the notes and bibliography match internally, and are correct, as well as showing the right date and place of publication. If you are inclined to respond that it will never be worth the cost of programming a computer to do these things, reflect please on what it means to say that your job is worth so little it can’t be cost effective to program a machine to do it.