You're replacing me with a robot? That's fine

robot office worker

While people prefer to see jobs go to other humans rather than robots, it seems the opposite is true when it comes to their own jobs.

This is a finding of new research from Stefano Puntoni, professor of marketing at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, released today in a co-authored article in Nature Human Behaviour.

It reveals that people experience more negative feelings when they are replaced by another person than when they are replaced by a robot. This creates a psychological incentive for people to prefer being replaced by robots.

"This is the first paper to explore the unique psychological correlates of technological unemployment. As more and more occupations are affected by automation, this is an increasingly important topic. Interestingly, when technology replaces human workers, it has a unique psychological effect. People realise that the differences in abilities between robots and themselves might not be short-lived but permanent, indicating skill obsolescence," says Professor Puntoni.

The researchers believe their findings can help develop programs to cope with the negative consequences of workers being replaced by intelligent machines. Such programmes can help to re-employ job seekers and reduce negative effects on mental and physical health.

Professor Puntoni adds, "We hope that, particularly in times when policymakers are discussing strategies intended to support workers who have been displaced by technology, our work encourages more research on the psychological consequences of technological unemployment before technological progress disrupts specific jobs and occupations."

As technological progress is expected to affect millions of workers in a wide variety of occupations in coming decades, the researchers believe it's important for the stability of society that we understand potential threats to the psychological well being of affected workers, and how this transition will affect their long-term economic prospects.

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