Americans’ views on the rise of automation: 6 key findings
From driverless cars to a workplace staffed by robots, automation has the potential to reshape many facets of American life. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in May examines Americans’ attitudes about four emerging automation technologies: workplace automation, driverless cars, robot caregivers, and computer algorithms that evaluate and hire job applicants. 1The public generally expresses more worry than enthusiasm about emerging automation technologies – especially when it comes to jobs. U.S. adults are roughly twice as likely to express worry as enthusiasm about a future in which robots and computers are capable of doing many jobs that are currently done by humans. Views on applying for a job that uses a computer program to evaluate and select applicants are even more negative: 76% of Americans say they would not want to apply. 3The public supports policies that would limit the scope of automation technologies. In the event that robots and computers are able to do most of the jobs that are done by humans today, 85% of Americans are in favor of limiting machines to performing primarily those jobs that are dangerous or unhealthy for humans. Majorities also say they would favor the federal government offering a guaranteed income or creating a national service program that would pay people to perform tasks even if machines could do the job faster or more cheaply. 4Americans think automation will likely disrupt a number of professions – but relatively few think their own jobs are at risk. A majority of U.S. adults say it is at least somewhat likely that jobs such as fast food workers and insurance claims processors will be mostly performed by machines in their lifetime, while around half expect that the same will be true of jobs such as software engineers and legal clerks. On the other hand, only three-in-ten workers think it’s at least somewhat likely that their own jobs will be mostly done by robots or computers during their lifetimes. In total, 6% of U.S. adults say they have ever personally lost their job, or had their wages or hours reduced, because their employer replaced elements of their position with a machine, robot or computer program. The youngest adults are the most likely age group to report that they have been personally impacted by automation: 13% of Americans ages 18 to 24 have experienced at least one of these impacts. Roughly three-quarters of Americans expect that widespread automation of jobs will lead to greater levels of economic inequality than exist today, while nearly two-thirds expect people will have a hard time finding things to do with their lives. At the same time, few Americans – just 25% – say that widespread automation will lead to the economy creating new, higher paying jobs for humans.
Bill Gates And Elon Musk Are Worried For Automation
The specter of automation has Bill Gates and Elon Musk worried. Gates believes the government should tax robots as they tax human workers, and “Even slow down the speed” of incorporating robots into the workforce. “Certainly there will be taxes that relate to automation. Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level. – Bill Gates”. Musk predicts automation will lead to mass unemployment. The government would need to establish a universal income to maintain social and economic stability. “I think may be these things do play into each other a little bit, but what to do about mass unemployment. This is going to be a massive social challenge. And I think ultimately we will have to have some kind of universal basic income. I don’t think we’re going to have a choice. – Elon Musk”. Theobald doesn’t claim to know what type of social programs would work the best, and is open to things like a universal minimum income. He rejects the idea of automation induced mass unemployment, characterizing it as highly unlikely. “There is no better way to kill an economy than to cripple its ability to be competitive in world markets,” says the CIO. Theobald grew up in Silicon Valley, the region most commonly known for ‘disrupting’ our banal lives with novel technologies. Those obsolete components found new use in Theobald’s robotics and electronics projects. In high school, Theobald wanted to bring others together around a shared love of computing and electronics. Their following discussion left a lasting impact on Theobald. His enthusiasm for computing and electronics drove him to apply to MIT. He wasn’t sure at first whether he would even go to college until his childhood friend, Tony Costa, mentioned MIT. “He said it was the best engineering school in the world.,” Theobald said, “But he bet I couldn’t get in.” Theobald’s dad, on the other hand, gently encouraged him to apply. To Theobald, the difference between Boston and San Jose was night and day. “My parents even wondered if I was still alive after a semester,” Theobald jokes.