Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have sounded warnings about automation. And the American public appears to be listening. As the U.S. suffered first monthly job decline since 2010 in September, they have persistent concerns about the future of the economy — and their place in it.
Most Americans expect these advancements to have a negative impact on both the workforce and the U.S. economy, according to a new survey of more than 4,100 people in the U.S. released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C. Perhaps surprisingly, ome 67% of people are worried rather than enthusiastic (22%) about algorithms evaluating and choosing job candidates. However, people are more sanguine when it comes to driverless cars (54% express worry) and robot caregivers (47% express worry).
The findings suggest workers are fearful of automation:
• 72% of Americans are worried about robots replacing human jobs — more than double the share (33%) that is enthusiastic
• 77% of people think it’s realistic that robots and computers might one day be able to do many of the jobs currently done by humans
• And yet only 30% think it “very or somewhat likely” that their own jobs or professions will be done by robots or computers in their lifetimes
‘The public is extremely wary about allowing machines to replace human responsibilities and human decision-making. They worry that even the most advanced technologies can never truly duplicate the creativity and insight of humans.’
Aaron Smith, an associate director of research at Pew Research Center
“The public is extremely wary about allowing machines to replace human responsibilities and human decision-making,” lead author Aaron Smith, an associate director of research at Pew Research Center, said in a statement. “Although they anticipate some benefits from the growing trend toward automation, they worry that even the most advanced technologies can never truly duplicate the creativity and insight of humans. They also strongly support policies that limit the reach of automation technologies and that place humans more fully in control of their processes.”
Do Americans really have cause for concern?
Americans fear that automation will exacerbate inequality rather than help lower paid workers. Some 76% of those surveyed by Pew expect that economic inequality will become “much worse” if robots and computers are able to perform many of the jobs that are currently done by humans. And only one-quarter of respondents believe the economy will create many new, better-paying jobs for humans if this scenario becomes a reality. What’s more, 64% expect that people will have a hard time finding things to do with their lives if forced to compete with advanced robots and computers.
Americans fear that automation will exacerbate inequality rather than help lower paid workers. Some 76% of those surveyed by Pew expect that economic inequality will become “much worse” if robots replace many jobs.
Automation is expected to eliminate 25 million jobs by 2027, impacting service and manufacturing industries, according to a recent study by researchers at Northwestern University. “Our analysis suggests that without changes to the current U.S. tax system, a sizable fall in the costs of automation would lead to a massive rise in income inequality,” they wrote. “We find that income inequality can be reduced by raising marginal tax rates and taxing robots.” On the plus side, robots are also expected to create 15 million jobs, Forrester Research found.
Who will be impacted the most by automation?
The highest concentration of industrial robots occurs in the Midwest and Upper South of the U.S., according to data released in August by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C. More than half of the nation’s 233,305 industrial robots are burning welds, painting cars, assembling products, handling materials, or packaging things in 10 Midwestern and Southern states, led by Michigan (28,000 robots or 12% of total number), Ohio (20,400 or 8.7%), and Indiana (19,400 or 8.3%). The entire West accounts for just 13% of the nation’s industrial robots.
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The better a job pays, the less likely it is to be replaced by automation: There’s an 83% chance that automation will replace a job that pays $20 an hour or less, a White House report released last year concluded. That falls to 31% for a job that pays between $30 and $40 per hour, and only a 4% chance for a job that pays $40 an hour or more. But many traditionally blue-collar jobs will be hard to replace, including carpenters, plumbers and electricians. Composers, artists, health care practitioners, home health aides, elder care specialists, child care workers, engineers, teachers and, finally, human resources executives are — for now at least — less likely to be impacted.