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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 Those who had been replaced by a robot (about 14%), estimated that 47% of all jobs have been taken over by robots.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: 2, Funny) by khallow on Wednesday November 23, @02:38PM (8 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday November 23, @02:38PM (#1281275) Journal
    In the last quoted paragraph:

    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.

    That's the huge missing puzzle piece here for why we're not all replaced by automation and robots. Because it actually makes our own labor more valuable and hence, increases demand for it.

    I see people are stoking the hysteria: for example, "Self-service taking over jobs" and "14% is no joke. Those jobs aren't coming back." Automation continues to create more jobs than it destroys. It's time to worry about real problems.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by MIRV888 on Wednesday November 23, @03:26PM (3 children)

    by MIRV888 (11376) on Wednesday November 23, @03:26PM (#1281287)

    You are wrong. If a robot can work 24/7 doing x task, that is not providing more jobs. If a truck can drive itself cross country, truckers will not benefit from that. Self check out lanes have not been a boon for cashiers. Robotic welding machines have not added jobs to automotive production. The list goes on and on. It's not hysteria. It's what's been happening and will continue to happen more and more.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday November 24, @01:31AM (2 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @01:31AM (#1281370) Journal

      If a robot can work 24/7 doing x task, that is not providing more jobs.

      Depends what the task is. If it's hunting down humans, they aren't providing more jobs. If they're supporting a 24/7 global communications network by doing tasks that are impossible for humans to do, then they are providing more jobs.

      Robotic welding machines have not added jobs to automotive production.

      First, I'll note that it's likely that automotive production jobs increased globally despite whatever job killing properties robotic welding machines might have.

      Further, the economy is more than automotive production jobs. Those robotic welding machines have resulted in cheaper, higher quality cars which is a job booster to everywhere else in the economy.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @04:33AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @04:33AM (#1281391)

        > it's likely that automotive production jobs increased globally despite whatever job killing properties robotic welding machines might have.

        The local Chevy/GM engine plant used to employ 2000-3000 people, in the 1970s. They make more engines there (per year) than they ever used to, and now it takes about 300 people. The engines they make now are also more complex and made to much better tolerances. I will give you that those 300 jobs are pretty well paid (many union), but the level of automation has decimated (1/10) the head count of humans.

        More generally, some quick googling suggests that GM now has about 150K employees. At their peak in the 1970s(?) it was 600K employees. The don't make as many cars as they used to, the wiki article I found says about 5M/year 1999-2000 dropping to ~3M after the "great recession", bankruptcy and re-organization.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday November 24, @06:13AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @06:13AM (#1281406) Journal

          The local Chevy/GM engine plant used to employ 2000-3000 people, in the 1970s.

          Classic example of the provincialism exhibited in this thread. What about automakers in other countries?

          Also keep in mind that companies like GM lost massive market share. So we would expect a huge drop. For example, in 1976 [knoema.com], GM had market share of 47% of 13 million vehicles (roughly 6 million vehicles). In 2019 (pre-covid), it was 17% of 17 million vehicles (a bit under 3 million vehicles). So right there, we should expect the number of employees to be halved (a little more actually), just from GM's loss of market share (which is half, logrithmically of the drop in employment you discuss). When we consider other problems like that GM had massive financial trouble (and went bankrupt once) and had huge inefficiencies in the 1970s, it really doesn't make sense to blame all that labor reduction on automation.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Immerman on Wednesday November 23, @05:45PM (3 children)

    by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday November 23, @05:45PM (#1281298)

    Perhaps technically true - however like most "makes your labor more valuable" innovations in the last... 70(?) years you are unlikely to see any of that value - it'll all go to the executives who made the decision to spend the money you and other employees generated on value-amplifying technology.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday November 24, @01:34AM (2 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @01:34AM (#1281371) Journal

      Perhaps technically true - however like most "makes your labor more valuable" innovations in the last... 70(?) years you are unlikely to see any of that value - it'll all go to the executives who made the decision to spend the money you and other employees generated on value-amplifying technology.

      Perhaps you might recall that claim [soylentnews.org] wasn't true? The post wasn't formatted well due to a typo, but there is a strong correlation between productivity of labor and the total compensation that an employee received over the past half century in the US.

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday November 24, @02:25PM (1 child)

        by Immerman (3985) on Thursday November 24, @02:25PM (#1281476)

        That seems unlikely considering that real (inflation adjusted) wages have remained almost constant over that time while productivity has skyrocketed.

        Remember, rule of thumb is that the value of money is halved every ~20 years. (for 3% annual inflation, which tends to be what the feds target on average). If your wages haven't doubled in that time, you've taken a pay cut.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday November 24, @02:28PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @02:28PM (#1281479) Journal

          That seems unlikely considering that real (inflation adjusted) wages have remained almost constant over that time while productivity has skyrocketed.

          Total compensation (inflation adjusted BTW) != real (inflation adjusted) wages. It's more than that. The big addition is health insurance. Funny how that keeps getting missed in the ole narrative.