Americans Back Policies Saving Jobs from Automation

Most Americans are worried about the impact of automation on their jobs.

That’s the conclusion of a new survey by the Pew Research Center, which found that 72 percent of Americans exhibited “some level of worry” about the concept, while just 33 percent said they were “enthusiastic.”

In addition, some three-quarters of Americans thought the increased presence of robotics and automation will lead to a boost in inequality between rich and poor. The rest think that the rise of the machines will translate into new (and possibly more lucrative) jobs.

Pew also asked respondents about solutions to the issue. “When asked about four different policies that might blunt or minimize the impact of widespread automation on human workers, the public responds especially strongly to one in particular: the idea that robots and computers be mostly limited to doing jobs that are dangerous or unhealthy for humans,” the survey added.

Nearly half of respondents (47 percent) strongly backed the idea of a ban on robots performing certain jobs. They also supported, to varying degrees, a mix of other programs, including “the option to pay extra to interact with a human worker instead of a machine when buying a product or service (62% of Americans are in favor of this); [and] having the federal government provide all Americans with a guaranteed income that would allow them to meet their basic needs (60% in favor).”

Some 58 percent of respondents also supported “creating a government-run national service program that would pay people to perform tasks even if machines could do those jobs faster or cheaper.”

The rest of the survey contains loads of interesting data about Americans’ opinions on machines, including whether the government or individuals should ultimately be responsible for taking care of humans whose jobs are taken by automation (spoiler alert: the results are extremely partisan).

Current automation platforms don’t seem to have caused widespread job destruction among software and DevOps engineers, who report robust salaries despite the increased presence of automating software. In a similar vein, a recent survey by the World Economic Forum found that Millennials don’t really fear technology taking their jobs. It will be interesting to see whether such sentiments (and salaries) change as the technology grows more sophisticated.

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