Americans Fear That Automation Will Exacerbate Inequality

According to a new survey of more than 4,100 people in the U.S., presented byQuenton Fottrell, and released recently by the Pew Research Center, most Americans expect warnings about automation advancements to have a negative impact on both the workforce and the U.S. economy. 67% of people are worried, rather than enthusiastic, (22%) about algorithms evaluating and choosing job candidates, though people are more sanguine when it comes to driverless cars (54% express worry) and robot caregivers (47% express worry).

These findings, shown in the report, 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
  • Only 30% think it “very or somewhat likely” that their own jobs or professions will be done by robots or computers in their lifetimes

Lead author Aaron Smith, an associate director of research at Pew Research Center, says “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.”  And, says the report, they also strongly support policies that limit the reach of automation technologies and that place humans more fully in control of their processes.

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. Additionally, 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.

The highest concentration of industrial robots, says the report, occurs in the Midwest and Upper South of the U.S., according to data released in August by the Brookings Institution. 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.

Finally, the report offers solace for some, by noting that 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
  • 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

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5 comments about " Americans Fear That Automation Will Exacerbate Inequality".
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  1. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC, October 10, 2017 at 7:38 a.m.

    Would someone please develop a robot to clean bathrooms?  Apparently no one wants that job at my favorite breakfast place. 

    Clean, sanitiize, and dry.  Solve that problem and you've got an instant deca-unicorn! 

    - - - - - - - -

    Find a robot with dry wit and I'll plan an exit strategy.  

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, October 10, 2017 at 8:14 a.m.

    Randall, I have a "smart toilet" that cleans itself. Be patient----you wish will come true.

  3. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC replied, October 10, 2017 at 8:22 a.m.

    "Smart toilet" sure feels like a malapropism!  Guess I've got to go with the flow!

  4. David Shank from Shank Public Relations Counselors, October 10, 2017 at 9:32 a.m.

    All toilet talk aside -- i'm flush out of bad dump jokes. But this piece illustrates the critical need to start career education at the high school level for creating and MAINTAINING industral robots.  Robots are good, but eventually they need re-programming, need preventive maintenance and maybe even just have a screw's loose that a qualified, smart logical real human must analyze and fix. We work with a high school career technology center and the work they're doing with young people is amazing. But, they need continued industry suppport to keep their training technology updated

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 10, 2017 at 9:34 a.m.

    There are so many news shows to which you need to bring your expertise. People say they believe tech will take their jobs in mid and southern US, yet they support policies to bring on more of it. See the Thom Forbes article on MP today about Richard Thaler's Nobel Prize in economics.

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