London: Most people find the idea of workers being replaced by robots or software worse than if the jobs are taken over by other workers. But when their own job is at stake, people prefer to be replaced by robots than by another employee, says a study. Published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, the study aims to analyse how workers react to being replaced by technology.
For this, researchers conducted 11 scenarios studies and surveys with over 2,000 persons from several countries in Europe and North America. “Even when unemployment results from the introduction of new technologies, people still judge it in a social context,” said study researcher Christoph Fuchs, Professor at the Technical University of Munich, Germany.
“It is important to understand these psychological effects when trying to manage the massive changes in the working world to minimize disruptions in society,” he said. The study shows that most people view it more favourably when workers are replaced by other people than by robots or intelligent software. This preference reverses, however, when it refers to people’s own jobs. When this is the case, the majority of workers find it less upsetting to see their own jobs go to robots than to other employees.
In the long term, however, the same people see machines as more threatening to their future role in the workforce. The researchers were also able to identify the causes behind these seemingly paradoxical results. They said that people tend to compare themselves less with machines than with other people. Consequently, being replaced by a robot or a software poses less of a threat to their feeling of self-worth.