Most Americans Believe Jobs Will be Taken Over by Robots… Just Not Their Jobs

Nanyang Technological University's professor Nadia Thalmann, right, talks to Nadine, a humanoid she and her team created, at the Singapore campus. Nadine is a new brand of human-like robot that scientists hope could one day serve as a personal assistant or care provider for the elderly. (Edgar Su/Reuters)
Nanyang Technological University’s professor Nadia Thalmann, right, talks to Nadine, a humanoid she and her team created, at the Singapore campus. Nadine is a new brand of human-like robot that scientists hope could one day serve as a personal assistant or care provider for the elderly. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

After years of hearing about the coming robot boom, most Americans believe the threat of automation in the workforce is real. But when it comes to their own jobs? Oh, those are definitely safe.

That’s the takeaway from a report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center on the public’s views about the future of workforce automation. It surveyed 2,000 adults and found that 65 percent expect that 50 years from now, robots and computers will do much of the work that’s currently done by humans.

But when it comes to their own positions, they’re not so worried. A much larger share — 80 percent — expect their occupations to exist five decades from now. “There’s a real disconnect between what people think will happen in the abstract and the extent to which they think it will impact them,” says Aaron Smith, Pew’s associate director of research.

Is it irrational? Narcissistic? Willful ignorance? The report doesn’t say why the disconnect exists. But it did find largely similar trends across demographic groups.

Still, there were differences. Generally, higher percentages of people who were under 50, had a college degree, had higher household incomes or worked in the government, education or nonprofit sectors thought it was unlikely that robots and computers would do much of the work in 50 years that people currently do.

Interestingly, those whose jobs involve manual labor were more likely to think their current job would either “definitely” or “probably” exist in 50 years (82 percent) than those who work as managers or executives (73 percent). Those bosses might be recalling a recent research report from McKinsey & Company, which showed that while fewer than five percent of occupations could be taken over by robots with currently available technology, CEOs are likely to be more affected by automation than, say, landscapers.

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SOURCE: Jena McGregor 
The Washington Post