"Who's Afraid Of Robots?" Say Workers

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When it comes to being replaced by automation, few people in the world are worried, no matter how much they should be. Only 63 percent of people answering an online poll conducted by jobs board Monster.com thought that automation would ever be able to do their entire job.Although not a scientific poll, because it depends on a self-selecting group that might not be representative of any larger population, the results suggest that many people are unworried about their jobs being in danger. And that could be a big mistake.

Out of 3,800 responses, 12 percent of the people said that computers or robots could already do their entire job. Another 15 percent thought they could be replaced somewhere within ten years, while another 10 percent said it would take more than ten years for technology to make them obsolete.

Germans were most wary of automation, as 40 percent thought their jobs could already be done by machines. In the U.S., 62 percent of those answering didn't think software and hardware could ever perform all of their duties.

University of Oxford researchers have already estimated that 45 percent of the U.S. workforce could be replaced by computers by 2033. That was looking ahead 20 years when the study was done in 2013, but that shouldn't offer much comfort.

People often assume that only low-end jobs are candidates for robotic replacement, like fast food jobs, as AOL Jobs has reported, or assembly work in factories. But as you can read in Fortune, there are already white collar jobs being replaced by a combination of automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics. That includes some reporters, online marketers, doctors and surgeons, lawyers, and financial advisors.

To be sure, the replacement areas are usually narrowly defined -- at the moment. But advanced training is no longer a sure protection. The more repeated the activities of a job and the more data can be collected about how it is done, the greater a chance that some computer or device could actually learn how to do the work and then take over. Many people may, in the not distant future, find themselves inadvertently training their silicon replacements.

The argument among experts is not so much whether people can be replaced in their jobs, but whether new types of jobs will open up, giving humans new opportunities to work. Better hope the optimists are right. It only took 25 percent unemployment to keep the Great Depression running for years.
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