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posted by janrinok on Wednesday November 23, @08:12AM   Printer-friendly

The study found that robots aren't replacing humans at the rate most people think, but people are prone to exaggerate the rate of robot takeover:

It's easy to believe that robots are stealing jobs from human workers and drastically disrupting the labor market; after all, you've likely heard that chatbots make more efficient customer service representatives and that computer programs are tracking and moving packages without the use of human hands.

But there's no need to panic about a pending robot takeover just yet, says a new study from BYU sociology professor Eric Dahlin. Dahlin's research found that robots aren't replacing humans at the rate most people think, but people are prone to severely exaggerate the rate of robot takeover.

The study, recently published in Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, found that only 14% of workers say they've seen their job replaced by a robot. But those who have experienced job displacement due to a robot overstate the effect of robots taking jobs from humans by about three times.

[...] Those who had been replaced by a robot (about 14%), estimated that 47% of all jobs have been taken over by robots. Similarly, those who hadn't experienced job replacement still estimated that 29% of jobs have been supplanted by robots.

"Overall, our perceptions of robots taking over is greatly exaggerated," said Dahlin. "Those who hadn't lost jobs overestimated by about double, and those who had lost jobs overestimated by about three times."

Attention-grabbing headlines predicting a dire future of employment have likely overblown the threat of robots taking over jobs, said Dahlin, who noted that humans' fear of being replaced by automated work processes dates to the early 1800s.

[...] Dahlin says these findings are consistent with previous studies, which suggest that robots aren't displacing workers. Rather, workplaces are integrating both employees and robots in ways that generate more value for human labor.

Journal Reference:
Eric Dahlin, Are Robots Really Stealing Our Jobs? Perception versus Experience [open], Socius, 8, 2022. DOI: 10.1177/23780231221131377


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by MIRV888 on Wednesday November 23, @10:19AM (7 children)

    by MIRV888 (11376) on Wednesday November 23, @10:19AM (#1281252)

    Boston Dynamics has robots doing synchronized gymnastic displays on beat with old time rock and roll. Auto driving vehicles are well into road testing in the real world. 14% is no joke. Those jobs aren't coming back. It only goes up from here. The social ramifications of the coming swarms of unemployed humans is going to be revolutionary.
    IMHO

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Immerman on Wednesday November 23, @11:19AM (1 child)

    by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday November 23, @11:19AM (#1281260)

    In fairness those robots are painstakingly programmed for those routines, and even when "done" they typically need MANY takes to get each shot without any of them falling over or otherwise making a fool of themselves in order to get footage that can be stitched together into an impressive PR campaign that vastly overstates their capabilities.

    Still, they're improving at an alarmingly impressive rate, while bodies like the Tesla-bot are liable to introduce extreme cost-reduction pressures with an eye toward mass-production.

    And yet, I still have my doubts that we're anywhere near as close to e.g. fully autonomous self driving cars as the experts think. AI is one of those fields that has consistently made both experts and observers grossly overestimate how close we are to being "good enough", right from the beginning of the field. Every step towards creating an AI that can exercise "good judgement" seems to be *almost* enough... and then we discover just how much harder closing the remaining gap really is. Personally I have a creeping suspicion that actually dealing with the real world reliably will turn out to require an AI that has some actual awareness of itself and the world - a.k.a. artificial sentience (~= feeling - a.k.a. any higher animal, not to be confused with sapience ~= thinking). At which point we introduce the same basic moral concerns that we have around enslaving and killing animals, or people if it develops sapience as well. Which might not be far behind, but could also be far more complicated if our own brains are anything to go by.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by MIRV888 on Wednesday November 23, @03:20PM

      by MIRV888 (11376) on Wednesday November 23, @03:20PM (#1281285)

      I realize that. It's a media production to be sure. That being said, those humanoid robots are well on their way to being reliable. Once they get them dialed in, you are going to have humanoid machines that can work 24/7 with no pay, no insurance, no union, and repeat tasks identically each time. It's closer than I would care to admit. I may not see it come to fruition in my life, but it will happen. Nothing maybe about it.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by RS3 on Wednesday November 23, @07:11PM (4 children)

    by RS3 (6367) on Wednesday November 23, @07:11PM (#1281317)

    It's far too complex for my brain, especially for the rush I'm in, but it's mostly about economics. I took some econ in uni, and I sure wish it was taught in K-12, a lot.

    I see both sides of the argument, and I've had some arguments about it with some overly-philosophical people.

    On one hand, automation, even in the form of simple mechanization like the cotton gin and waterwheel-driven grain grinding, does displace some jobs. But that's been going on for more than 200 years, and sure there are many downsides, but in many (definitely not all) ways society has advanced.

    In my observation, besides all the interim benefits like higher productivity, humans doing less dangerous work, etc., the net result has been shorter and shorter work hours.

    40 hour work weeks have been fairly standard for quite some time, but maybe it's time to shorten that number.

    One of my concerns is: what will people do with the extra time? That's a big discussion in and of itself.

    In the aforementioned philosophical argument I had with a (bit too sure of himself) coworker, he kept talking about "retraining", as if all people are modeling clay and I can teach the shoemaker to code in Go. Maybe.

    But maybe not. Again, big discussion there.

    Additionally, let's go with the "retraining" thing- 1) who pays for it? 2) who subsidizes the trainee's life (rent, food, utilities, etc.)?? What if trainee just doesn't 'get it'?

    Good topic for a really good think-tank discussion and brainstorming. There used to be a (US) PBS show where there was a moderator who had a roundtable of some top experts and they'd discuss and debate such issues, and I forget the name of the long-gone show...

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by jelizondo on Thursday November 24, @12:57AM (3 children)

      by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @12:57AM (#1281367) Journal

      On one hand, automation, even in the form of simple mechanization like the cotton gin and waterwheel-driven grain grinding, does displace some jobs. But that's been going on for more than 200 years

      The difference is that we are close to having good enough AI (not general AI) that machines design, fabricate and service robots. No need for humans to get involved into anything to do with production or maintenence.

      Once we get there, it will be utopia: everyone gets to be an artist or philosopher or whatever. Or we turn into little more than animals while the rich enjoy life!

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @03:07AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @03:07AM (#1281382)
        Yeah as various people have said - there were no new jobs for horses: https://alphorisms.medium.com/no-jobs-for-horses-e0748f565e3a

        Also you can pretend the cheaper workers in Asia are "robots" who are taking over many US/"Western" jobs. Did enough new jobs or alternatives (basic income etc) appear for the people in such cases?

        If they did in your country, then good for you, otherwise you're going to be screwed.
      • (Score: 3, Funny) by RS3 on Thursday November 24, @03:11AM

        by RS3 (6367) on Thursday November 24, @03:11AM (#1281383)

        I like optimism! I feel some cynicism creeping in... something will break it...

        But it reminds me of some Star Trek episodes, and I'm sure there are many other similar fiction / sci-fi stories.

        One episode was called "Spock's Brain", which I liked, but it got a lot of negative reviews. A utopian planet was controlled by a computer that broke. The people were all pretty daft, but happy. There was this helmet that could give a human super intelligence, but it would wear off. Somehow the people knew about Spock, and using the helmet of knowledge, they removed his brain, replacing it with something that would keep his body alive. Of course they used his brain to run the planet. The Trekkers figured it out, McCoy used the helmet of knowledge to replace Spock's brain back into his body, and somehow someone fixed the computer, and the Trekkers trekked onward. IIRC, of course. :)

        I guess the moral of the story is: in that future utopian world, don't be the one smart person.

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @03:17AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @03:17AM (#1281385)

        Once we get there, it will be utopia: everyone gets to be an artist or philosopher or whatever.

        AIs are already better at art and music than the average human:
        https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/02/technology/ai-artificial-intelligence-artists.html [nytimes.com]

        https://youtu.be/Emidxpkyk6o [youtu.be]
        https://www.unite.ai/best-ai-music-generators/ [unite.ai]

        Less bad option is pampered pet of the State/AIs. That said there's a chance as long as it remains a democracy and only humans can vote and run for elections. But the track record for that isn't that great right?