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Pew: 65 percent of Americans expect robots to take their work within 50 years

The majority of Americans expect robots and computers to take much of the work presently done by humans, according to new results from a Pew Research Center. However, this threat takes a backseat to other concerns, including poor management and lower-cost workers.

A combined 65 percent of 2,001 American adults surveyed between June 10 and July 10, 2015, said they expect robots and computers will “definitely” (15 percent) or “probably” (50 percent) do much of the work currently done by humans, according to Pew. Despite this general sentiment, 80 percent of respondents say they expect their jobs or professions will “definitely” (36 percent) or “probably” (44 percent) exist in 50 years.

While the “robots will steal our jobs” narrative is certainly intriguing, there are more immediate, human-driven threats to job security, according to respondents to Pew’s survey. The top concern is poorly managed companies (26 percent), followed by overall industries shrinking (22 percent), employers hiring someone else to do a job for less money (20 percent), and difficulty keeping up with the technical skills needed to remain competitive (13 percent). Employers replacing humans with robots or computers follows all those concerns (11 percent).


“Overall there are relatively few differences in these expectations based on workers’ demographic characteristics, and the differences that do exist are relatively modest,” wrote Aaron Smith, associate director of research at Pew Research Center. “For instance, younger workers are a bit more likely than older workers to expect that their current jobs will exist 50 years in the future: 84 percent of workers ages 18 to 29 expect that this will be the case, compared with 76 percent of workers ages 50 and older.”

A research article published by the McKinsey Global Institute in November concluded that robots will not take all our jobs in the near future. “Very few occupations will be automated in their entirety in the near or medium term,” according to the article. “Rather, certain activities are more likely to be automated, requiring entire business processes to be transformed, and jobs performed by people to be redefined, much like the bank teller’s job was redefined with the advent of ATMs.”

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