Survey: Americans are not worried about robots at work

Many would like to see repetitive tasks automated, but few want to work with non-people.

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Researchers predict that there is still a lot of demand for designers at all wage levels and employees with in-depth knowledge of the industry.

You’ve seen the headlines about robots after work, but a new report dispels fears and finds that Americans are less worried about workplace automation than it seems.

More about artificial intelligence

And it was those “generous, fear-based, rhetorically-filled headlines” that prompted the report, America’s Perceptions of the Future of Work, by the business process outsourcing provider Sykes.

The survey of more than 1500 Americans in the US showed that more than two-thirds (67%) had a positive connotation with intelligent, automation-based technology.

SEE: Artificial intelligence: a guide for managers (free PDF)

Although that may be the case, demography plays an important role in Americans’ perception of robots in the workplace, said Tara Chklovski, founder and CEO of Technovation, a global non-profit technology education organization focused on empowerment of girls in low-income communities.

Technovation conducted its own research in 2018 among 1,566 low-income families to get an idea of ​​what people feel about artificial intelligence and what their fears are.

“What we found was that 80% of low-income families were very afraid that AI would replace their jobs, and they were very afraid that their value system was being compromised,” Chklovski said. “AI removed a very fundamental work ethic and they felt that the value of (their) hard work was undermined by AI.”

Respondents express specific fears about the disappearance of jobs in traditional production, she said.

On the other hand, 40% of respondents in the same survey said they knew how to achieve AI and saw technology as “a way for them to get in touch with their children and grandchildren,” which systems and apps are adopting or will adopt . with AI-embedded technologies, Chklovski said.

Works with robots, does not take orders

The Sykes survey also showed that no respondent knew anyone who had lost his job as a result of the implementation of automation technologies; and nearly 61% said the company they work for had not had open discussions about the potential impact of automation technologies.

While nearly three-quarters of American employees say they are interested in the idea of ​​humans and automation technologies, few are open to the idea of ​​giving direction to something that is non-human.

Respondents to the survey said they were more willing to give direction to a human boss (87%) about a software program (13%). This sentiment is shared by all age groups and geographic regions investigated.

The 45 to 54-year-old group, mainly Gen Xers, is most concerned about possible job losses through the implementation of new automation technologies (45%).

“I wasn’t necessarily surprised that American employees seemed open to working with these technologies, considering how we can now automate the most repetitive and boring parts of our work – giving us more time to focus on truly creative and strategic work, said Sykes’ Chief Strategy Officer Ian Barkin.

But Barkin added that he did not necessarily expect that nearly three-quarters of respondents would say that they were interested in the idea of ​​collaboration between people and automation.

Another finding was that only slightly more than 21% of respondents said their employer had discussions about the impact of automation technologies on work.

“There is ample opportunity for further training on how automation will affect the future of our way of working – in every area – and for regular, deliberate in-service training,” said Barkin: “Training the current workforce for tomorrow is not a one-off professional development program; is intentional, individual and often. ”

Industries that can be affected

The Sykes survey asked 17 questions – of what US employees do to stay current in workplace technologies, if they are interested in working with automated technologies, if they were more or less likely to apply to a company investing in automation technology and how their employers prepare them for the future of work.

Agriculture, construction, finance and insurance, legal services, the military and industry are among the career areas that respondents said they think will be most affected in the next five years.

Respondents to the Sykes survey offered suggestions for various work tasks that they would like to see automated, including:

  • Answering phone calls
  • Confirm phone calls
  • Send follow-up emails
  • Fill in spreadsheets
  • Organizing and archiving
  • Track incoming data
  • Fill in the same papers repeatedly
  • Schedule meetings

Nearly half (43%) of US employees surveyed do not believe that the US government is responsible for compensating people whose jobs are eliminated due to workplace automation.

Of those who do (57%), 25% said that well-being programs in the US are the answer, while nearly a third (32%) of respondents felt that a universal basic income program should be set up to eliminate jobs that are lost due to workplace automation.

Chklovski said she is not yet sure how people are focused on workplace automation. “I think most people live a very hectic life and don’t think about what will happen in 10 years. Polls are interesting, but don’t necessarily reflect what their choices will be.”

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