Andrew Hill

Outsiders have been marvelling at the uncanny skills of robots for decades. In 1978, commentators on the FT’s “Technical Page” were wowed by a machine called Puma (“programmable universal manipulator for assembly”) that had the “dexterity and accuracy [to] insert lamps into automobile instrument panels”. These days, Puma would look about as nimble as a first world war tank. My colleague Tanya Powley writes in the last of the FT’s series on robots at work that a Danish company has developed a machine that “can pack millions of eggs without crushing them”, while lightweight collaborative robots work alongside humans.

Missing, though, from most accounts of how automation will transform the workplace is a similar sense of wonder at the dexterity of managers as they adapt their human skills to the demands of the sophisticated machinery around them. 

My local football club recently told fans about a candidate for the vacant post of manager. “Although I am 15 years of age, and lack much coaching experience,” his email read, “I am very skilled at the computer game, Football Manager . . . ”