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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 Those who had been replaced by a robot (about 14%), estimated that 47% of all jobs have been taken over by robots.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: 1) by khallow on Thursday November 24, @01:58AM (6 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @01:58AM (#1281372) Journal

    Until it's not.

    Keep in mind that just like climate change, you haven't shown there is such a dramatic transition from ok to not ok.

    With climate change, we have the notorious problem of present day global warming falling well shy (about half) of the alleged long term global warming that should come from the present increase in greenhouse gases. The disparity is explained via opaque computer models that backload the future warming to well after the researchers have retired.

    We have similar unfounded claims here. For centuries - not years, not decades, centuries - we have employment increasing, expanding, and improving in quality and compensation, despite ever increasing automation.

    My question here is what has changed that we should take these claims seriously?

    This isn't an academic question. I've repeatedly mentioned over the years that a bigger problem than either climate change or increasing automation is human poverty. The last is important because reducing it not only reduces the direct problems of human poverty, but also indirect effects like reducing human fertility (poor people being higher fertility than rich people, it turns out). I've heard claims that climate change mitigation or reducing automation would help reduce poverty, but I have yet to see any evidence to support those particular claims and plenty of evidence against them (such as terrible climate change policies and said centuries of human improvement due in large part to that automation).

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @06:37AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @06:37AM (#1281411)

    My question here is what has changed that we should take these claims seriously?

    Previously the automation was mostly about automating "stupid stuff" with the focus on high labor stuff.

    The upcoming automation is about automating "smarter stuff". And in case you haven't noticed already, there are a LOT of stupid people around and the last I checked, they sure aren't getting smarter.
    There were no new jobs for horses:
    https://alphorisms.medium.com/no-jobs-for-horses-e0748f565e3a [medium.com]
    https://youtu.be/7Pq-S557XQU [youtu.be]

    Also you can pretend the cheaper workers in Asia[1] 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.

    Lastly, don't forget those hordes of supposedly smart and educated "western" workers insisting on "work from home" jobs. If your job can be done at home, maybe it could be done in Vietnam etc for less than a quarter the cost.

    [1] The jobs of these lower cost workers will be at threat too from automation ( https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36376966 [bbc.com] ), so they will be competing with automation/robots AND more expensive workers in the Western world.

    They cost less and their output won't necessarily be lower quality: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/01/16/169528579/outsourced-employee-sends-own-job-to-china-surfs-web [npr.org]

    And it turns out that the job done in China was above par — the employee's "code was clean, well written, and submitted in a timely fashion. Quarter after quarter, his performance review noted him as the best developer in the building,"

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday November 24, @02:12PM (2 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @02:12PM (#1281469) Journal

      Previously the automation was mostly about automating "stupid stuff" with the focus on high labor stuff.

      The upcoming automation is about automating "smarter stuff".

      The upcoming automation is really about marketing.

      There were no new jobs for horses

      There remain plenty of old jobs [archive.org] for horses - 9.2 million of them still in the US for example with, get this, 4.6 million humans involved as well.

      In addition, a human happens to be more flexible than a horse. For a glaring example, we can always employ each other, should we get dropped out of the general economy and somehow unable to enjoy the fruits of smart automation. That goes on now and it's quite adequate for the entire human race.

      Also you can pretend the cheaper workers in Asia[1] 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.

      If "my country" were say the US, Japan, Canada, most of the EU (outside of the PIGS), etc that would be "not screwed". The narrative doesn't fit what's actually happening.

      Lastly, don't forget those hordes of supposedly smart and educated "western" workers insisting on "work from home" jobs. If your job can be done at home, maybe it could be done in Vietnam etc for less than a quarter the cost.

      There's only so many people in Vietnam. Eventually, and by "eventually" I really mean within 30-50 years, we'll run out of that cheap labor outside of Africa. Then it'll be the countries with the better infrastructure and policies that will do better. Strong automation will be part of that better infrastructure and policies.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @03:53PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @03:53PM (#1281493)

        There remain plenty of old jobs [archive.org] for horses - 9.2 million of them

        There used to be 20+ million horses.

  • (Score: 2) by ilsa on Thursday November 24, @04:37PM (1 child)

    by ilsa (6082) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @04:37PM (#1281499)

    Nothing has changed. You're just wrong. The only question is where in the range you are... from mostly wrong to disastrously wrong.

    Climate change is _already happening_. Your willfully ignoring blatant facts because they don't satisfy your biased worldview doesn't change that.

    If you cannot see how climate change and automation directly contributes to human poverty, well... I'm not even going to waste my time debating it with you. You're not interested in debate or learning. You just want to waste my time.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Thursday November 24, @05:03PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @05:03PM (#1281503) Journal

      The only question is where in the range you are... from mostly wrong to disastrously wrong.

      Right.

      Climate change is _already happening_. Your willfully ignoring blatant facts because they don't satisfy your biased worldview doesn't change that.

      I agree. It has indeed been shown that climate change is happening and that in large part it is human-caused. What hasn't been shown is that we need to act on that, much less that there is an urgent need to dramatically cut back on greenhouse gases emissions.

      Similarly, we're supposed to do something about the alleged obsolescence of humans even though the benefits of automation have been going the opposite direction for centuries and the best criticism that can be made is that automation is getting "smarter" and people are like horses somehow.

      Here's my take. Show there's a problem first, then we can solve it. These aren't problems just because you have a scary scenario. Show the scenario has some relevance to what we observe in the real world.