When Robots Take Jobs

Most workers would rather be replaced by robots than humans.
When Robots Take Jobs

WHILE MOST PEOPLE would rather see jobs go to humans rather than to robots, this preference reverses when they consider their own jobs. In that case, they prefer to be replaced by robots, according to research by Armin Granulo, a doctoral candidate at the Technical University of Munich’s School of Management; Christopher Fuchs, a professor of marketing at TUM School of Management; and Stefano Puntoni, a professor of marketing at Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands.

They found that—in the short run—workers experience less damage to their sense of self-worth when they’re replaced by robots. But in the long run, they perceive robotic replacement as more threatening to their economic situations.

“When technology replaces human workers, it has a unique psychological effect. People realize that the differences in abilities between robots and themselves might not be short-lived but permanent, indicating skill obsolescence,” says Puntoni.

As more occupations are affected by automation, say the researchers, policymakers need to consider strategies to support workers who have been displaced by technology, giving particular attention to reducing the negative effects on mental and physical health. For instance, the research shows that workers who attribute their job loss to automation would benefit from resources wholly dedicated to interventions targeted at upgrading skills and retraining.

“Psychological Reactions to Human Versus Robotic Job Replacement” was published online August 5, 2019, in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.