The robots are coming. Will they bring wealth or a divided society?

Whether it’s our humdrum reliance on supermarket self-service tills, Siri on our iPhones, the emergence of the drone as a weapon of choice or the impending arrival of the driverless car, intelligent machines are woven into our lives as never before.  
It’s increasingly common, a cliche even, for us to read about the inexorable rise of the robot as the fundamental shift in advanced economies that will transform the nature of work and opportunity within society. The robot is supposedly the spectre threatening the economic security not just of the working poor but also the middle class across mature societies. "Be afraid" is the message: the march of the machine is eating into our jobs, pay rises and children’s prospects. And, according to many experts, we haven’t seen anything yet. 
This is because the power of intelligent machines is growing as their cost collapses. They are doing things reliably now that would have sounded implausible only a few years ago. By the end of the decade, Nissan pledges the driverless car, Amazon promises that electric drones will deliver us packages, Rolls-Royce says that unmanned robo-ships will sail our seas. The expected use of machines for everyday purposes is already giving rise to angst about the nascent problem of "robot smog" as other people’s machines invade ever more aspects of our personal space. 
As economically significant, perhaps, as the rise of super-gadgetry is the growing power of software to accurately process and respond to data patterns. This raises the prospect of machines reaching deep into previously protected areas of professional work like translation, medical diagnostics, the law, accountancy, even surgery. 
As yet, this techno-hype isn’t matched by much hard evidence. According to the International Federation for Robotics, the use of robotics in leading advanced economies has doubled in the last decade – significant, but less than you might expect.
The experience, however, varies dramatically: uptake exploded in China, while the UK lags far behind its competitors. The key question is whether the upward trend is about to take off, giving rise to sweeping changes in production that dislocate large tranches of the workforce.