I DOUBT there’s a slicker performer in the world’s power elites than Mark Carney, the Canadian-born Governor of the Bank of England. He looks and sounds like an ironic executive from a Mad Men episode. He is also cannily, often wittily, aware that avalanches of capital investment depend on his sentences.

Which makes his latest speech so remarkable. Carney plainly warns the capitalist democracies of the world that if they don’t get their social policies right in the face of automation, “then Marx and Engels may again be relevant”.

So let us assume that the punctilious Mr Carney is sending messages to his super-powered constituency. What are they? And for those Scots who want their country to be a full participant in the world’s affairs, how might they affect our journey?

It’s worth dwelling on Carney’s musings over Karl Marx. He begins by noting that “this is the first decade in which real incomes in the UK have declined since the middle of 19th century” – that is, the beginning of the heights of the first industrial revolution.

“So if you substitute platforms for textile mills, Twitter for the telegraph, machine learning for the steam engine, you have exactly the same dynamics as 150 years ago”, Carney says drolly. “And here’s what was happening then: Karl Marx was scribbling the Communist Manifesto in the reading rooms of the British Library.” Then up pop scary slides of the great bearded one and his pamphlet.

But you’d be mistaken for assuming that what comes next is a fevered celebration of free markets and creative destruction, pitted against the new revolutionary “scribblers” of our times.

Carney’s immediate next point is very precise. He says that what gets destroyed in any industrial revolution isn’t just jobs. It’s also “identities” – who we think we were, are, and could be, in the midst of all this upheaval and transformation.

This is quite an odd and sociological thing for an economist to say. Until you remember the famous Margaret Thatcher quote from 1981. “Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.” The rest of Carney’s presentation is mostly about how governments and companies can “change the heart and soul” of those bewildered and angered by this “fourth industrial revolution”.

It looks like during the 4IR (as it’s trendily termed), robots and AIs are going to rob many humans of their ability to upgrade their cognitive skills, as machines do the routine work. This is how we’ve responded to previous revolutions – and in the process, we’ve created whole new sectors of employment.

But Carney lays out how the 4IR processes look like they’re just going to replace the cognitive tasks of many middle-ranking human jobs. Carney notes about 70 per cent of the tasks he did when entering banking 20 years ago are now automated. And boiling down all the estimates, the governor suggest about 30 per cent of existing jobs will disappear under the data-crunching intelligence of AIs.

What to do? Carney makes it simple. Many will need to shift their skill-sets to “non-cognitive” jobs, or from “head” tasks to “heart” and “hand” tasks – the latter two meaning (respectively) caring and socially-oriented activities, and what Carney calls “customised” or craft activities.

So how do we make that transition? Carney is also clear on this. We need vast new mid-life education processes, with the state and business pulling in the same direction, which he calls “quaternary” education (after primary, secondary and tertiary).

As he describes it, the system sounds like a super-powered Open University, though Carney would want it much more integrated with the social welfare system. This quaternary education will also have to support the settled lifestyles of those in their late 30s and early 40s who are compelled, by the times, to go back to college.

And here’s where the Thatcher quote comes back in. As a trailblazer of the future, Carney points to Singapore’s SkillsFuture system, which offers $500 a year for fully-adult subjects (not quite citizens: it’s one-party rule here, remember) to retrain for new opportunities.

Carney is explicit: it’s not just about the fees offered. It’s about producing an “attitudinal shift”. He says we have to think: “These changes are coming, and this tech brings new opportunities – rather than ‘it’s going to take your job’. This is very much the positive message that can be drawn from this [shift] – that you can prepare for what you want to do.”

Carney goes on to envision an economy that is “much more distributed, much smaller scale, much more entrepreneurial, bespoke, creative and empathetic – [people] can move to those areas. That’s actually a pretty exciting, interesting, more varied and diverse economy ... if you help people get it right.”

Hmm. There is a cordite whiff here of Tony Blair’s Third Way lectures in the mid-2000s. To quote: “Complaining about globalisation is as pointless as saying ‘turn back the tide.’” It sometimes feels like automation has replaced the G-word here. The mandarins may want to entice you into a hipster-like “bespoke” economy. But they hold a big stick of “inevitable forces” behind their back.

And it’s hilarious how awkwardly Carney runs away from a question on “universal basic income”, having just mumbled and flicked his way through his own slides on a new and more active welfare state. And he certainly takes no position on a reduced working week.

Here’s a question to scandalise the leading economists: what if the fourth industrial revolution, quietly and inhumanly producing its bounty, actually reduced the importance of paid work in our lives? The tedious scrabble for position, the perpetual fretting about being up to speed, the time robbed from our beloved ones and relationships ...

And just to alert the Governor: those current Marx-equivalents are indeed scribbling away at the moment. Check out the current work of the Institute for Public Policy Research’s Mathew Lawrence, or coming books from Paul Mason (Clear Bright Future) and Aaron Bastani (Fully Luxury Automated Communism, no less), although most have placed their hopes on the not-exactly-solid prospect of a majority Corbyn government.

Where do Scotland – and us indy-minded Scots – stand in relation to all this? One word that jumped out of Carney’s discourse was his use of the term “jurisdictions”, when he was actually talking about nations. Jurisdictions means those states in the world that can initiate regulatory and legislative control (to a greater or lesser degree) over their territories and resources.

That is still the ultimate case for independence – as the final lever that can formulate, integrate and apply Scottish policy (always, no doubt, in a shifting environment). We hardly lack for a ferment of ideas about Scottish national development: the distance between Common Weal’s White Paper Project and the forthcoming Growth Commission report will be interesting.

Our basic income trials are being prepared. And the recently launched #ScotlandIsNow tries to tell a global story about Scotland which, at the very least, matches Carney’s bucolic visions of a “creative, empathetic, bespoke, exciting” economy and society. At its best, Scottish governance is a “laboratory for democracy”, in Louis Brandeis’ old phrase. And for the economy too.

However, these are clearly experimental times for everyone. Maybe as the door is hitting his bum on the way out (he leaves his job in June 2019), Carney is using horror-slides of old Marx and his works to urge the power elites to change before the pitchforks (or sans-culottes) get them first.

I’ll be happy with swords into ploughshares in an independent Scotland, thanks. But we should be on the cusp of debates about how to socially shape the next industrial revolution. Let’s rise to it.