Opinion  

Robo-pensions could be the only solution

Dirk Paterson

Dirk Paterson

Robo-pensions - it could be the perfect fear storm, but the only solution. 

We know from years of research by behavioural economists and others that we humans have fear about pensions, fear about advice and fear about robots. 

So robotic advice on pensions, is surely a perfect anxiety storm for the average pension saver. 

Yet ‘robo-advice’ is becoming reality, as will a whole host of other robo interventions in society.

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 As of 6th April, 2016 an estimated 320,000 people retiring each year with defined contribution pensions have been given greater choice over how they use their pension pot savings.

But only 22 per cent would be willing to pay any more than £100 for advice according to Boring Money. The sheer numbers suggests that robo-advice will become the only way to fulfil demand.  

Why the fear? 

Seven million people are saving for the first time via automatic enrolment. Taking the step of putting money away was a significant move.

But interacting with artificial intelligence in order to make complex, tax sensitive decisions about how and when they access those funds, is a frightening prospect. 

This condition is by no means helped by popular culture. Over the past couple of months, I have happened upon four sci-fi TV/radio dramas where artificial intelligence beings have turned on their makers to catastrophic affect.  

Is this fear of robots rational? 

Robots have been building the cars we drive for decades now. Indeed one of my neighbours proudly demonstrated how her ‘robo-park enabled her car to be parked without human input, totally scratch and bump-free. 

Robots could replace one-fourth of all U.S. combat soldiers by 2030, doing everything from dismantling land mines to engaging in front-line combat. 

Robots are frequent-flying astronauts exploring Mars, Jupiter and various other planets upon which we humans wouldn’t be able to survive. 

They are performing intricate key-hole surgeries we don’t have steady enough hands to perform. Pretty soon, robots will be providing healthcare for our aging population.

As a relatively fit 45-year-old I already struggle to put my own socks on in the morning. So I can see the attraction of a non judgemental, non human aid for when I am even more incapacitated. 

Robots have been sending us our internet purchases, picking our fruit, concocting our medicines, even counting our money for over a decade. 

As I was driving my kids to school, a scientist on the radio was asking which fellow humans in the audience believed robots could do their job better than them.

A train driver and a French teacher volunteered that robots, which wouldn’t get tired or bored, would be more reliable as train driver/language teachers. 

Artificial intelligence brings to us no end of possibilities, including potentially the end to work as we know it. They could be opening for us the possibility of a world of leisure.