Americans think robots will take everyone's jobs except their own
"Sure, the robots are coming for our jobs, but mine is safe."
According to a survey from the Pew Research Center released in March, that is the prevailing mentality shared by most working Americans.
While 65% of people agree that robots and computers will do much of the work currently done by humans in the next 50 years, a staggering 80% of people also think their job is totally safe.
Something doesn't add up.
Based on the research, the two-thirds of Americans who anticipate robots taking over are probably on the right side of history.
Multiple studies have predicted that the mid-21st century will see unprecedented levels of disruption in the human labor force. Automated robots in the form of simple factory machinery or complex humanoids that run on artificial intelligence are poised to do our jobs more efficiently and at a lower cost to business owners.
People who work in call centers, such as telemarketers, were recently judged by NPR as facing the greatest risk for replacement. Other at-risk professions include tax-document preparers, loan officers, umpires and referees, drivers, and fashion models.
A May report from PwC also found that drones could feasibly replace $129 billion worth of human labor, most notably in infrastructure, agriculture, transport, and security. Where human eyeballs were once the only way to keep tabs on big projects, now we can get a bird's-eye view from the ground.
Economists are already thinking about how to deal with the possibility of millions of people losing their jobs.
One big idea is called basic income. Basically, instead of people earning a wage for the work they produce, a reorganized tax system will grant people steady monthly checks on top of their existing income — say an extra $1,000 a month. The money can be put toward expenses like food or mortgage payments.
If robots dominate the work force, economists argue, people will be less valuable for their labor. They will still need to support themselves, however, so a system like basic income could help cover the cost. People would be able to pursue other passions instead of directing their efforts toward tasks that make the most money.
It's freeing in a way, even if the latest data doesn't suggest Americans are worried about their freedom disappearing anytime soon.