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When technology replaces human workers, it has an interesting psychological effect... For while people generally prefer to see jobs go to people rather than to robots, when it comes to their own jobs, they say they'd prefer to be replaced by a robot! New research from Rotterdam School of Management, reveals that people experience more negative feelings when they're replaced by another person than when they're replaced by a robot. However, while comparing one's abilities to a robot may be less of a concern to people's self-worth in the short run, robotic replacement is perceived as more threatening to people's economic situations in the long run.
"This is the first paper to explore the psychological correlates of technological unemployment," says Stefano Puntoni, the university's professor of marketing. "As more occupations are affected by automation, this is an increasingly important topic. People realise that the differences in abilities between robots and themselves might not be short-lived; but permanent - indicating skills obsolescence. We hope that, particularly in times when policymakers are discussing strategies to support workers displaced by technology, our work encourages more research on the psychological consequences of technological unemployment before technological progress disrupts specific jobs and occupations."
The researchers say their findings can help develop programmes to cope with any negative consequences of intelligent machines replacing workers. These can help to reemploy jobseekers and reduce any mental and physical health issues that result from replacement. They say workers who attribute their job loss to automation would benefit from resources dedicated to upgrading skills and retraining.
Singaporean manufacturer Lionsbot is marketing its humanised robots by showing someone who appears to be an ex-cleaner controlling a robotic 'cleaning team' via a mobile app and looking very happy to do so! The company has created its robots to be engaging; injecting them with personalities via their emotional responses, such as through their expressive eyes and voices. "Our robots embody Singaporean traits... friendliness, diligence and efficiency which are reflected via the interactive features and high productivity," it says. Will this make it even easier for people to accept these new cleaning teams as worthy replacements I wonder?
As technological progress is expected to affect millions of workers in a wide variety of occupations in the coming decades, it's important for the stability of society that we understand potential threats to the psychological wellbeing of affected workers, and how this transition will affect their long-term economic prospects. This new research could not have come at a better time...
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8th August 2019