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Robots may be driving cars, appealing tickets, and working construction, but they don’t have a whole lot of popular support.
That’s according to a new Pew Research study Wednesday that found around twice as many people were worried rather than enthusiastic about the prospect of more automation and artificial intelligence. Around a third of people surveyed welcomed these potential job killers, while 72 percent had a dimmer view.
This makes sense; most people work jobs that could one day be displaced by robots, according to various studies. And while some experts argue that more technology could create more jobs than it kills, it’s understandable to be wary of any economic sea change.
Only around 30 percent of those surveyed believed their own job was at risk
Interestingly enough, though, only around 30 percent of those surveyed believed their own job was at risk, while 77 percent said the prospect of a future in which robots do most human jobs is at least somewhat realistic.
In fact, the group as a whole picked their own respective jobs as the second safest line of work than any other besides nursing. Every other type of job from fast food cashiers and construction crews to software engineers and insurance claims processors were, on the whole, much more vulnerable than whatever each person’s own job happened to be.
Pew didn’t provide any insight into the thought process behind this belief. Perhaps it’s because people naturally have a greater appreciation of the subtle intricacies of their own trade or profession and doubt any computer’s ability to handle all that. Maybe people just want to believe that a piece of machinery couldn’t perform an activity to which they devote much of their existence.
In any case, this particular finding tracked with past polls Pew’s done on this subject.
A survey earlier this year in which Pew asked 1,400 experts on the topic similar questions yielded a near-exact opposite result: 70 percent were positive about the labor market’s ability to withstand the effects of automation, while 30 percent were more skeptical. Of course, as far as we know, there are no robots currently in development to pontificate about robots at major universities, so this set of respondents may have less skin in the game despite their expertise.
Around three times as many people as not also said they were worried about a world in which algorithms could make hiring decisions without human involvement. Opinions on driverless cars and robot caregivers were closer to an even split.
Three quarters of people think the rise of robots will lead to more income inequality. And they don’t expect automation and artificial intelligence to provide more work than it kills.
Americans also seem to be more welcoming of big government involving itself in this phenomenon than they might be otherwise. In a scenario in which robots were competitive with humans in the labor market, around 60 percent said they would support a universal basic income—a policy in which everyone received a regular stipend from the government to cover living costs—and a similar portion agreed to a subsidy to give humans a leg up on a cheaper robot workforce.
Programs like these have also received some surprising support from Silicon Valley moguls in the past few years. Billionaires like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have spoken favorably of a universal basic income, and some have even raised money to put it to the test. Bill Gates also turned some heads earlier this year when he advocated a tax on robots to cushion the shock of their entrance into the market.