Americans are increasingly leery about how certain technologies will affect their lives, according to a new report.
The Pew Research Center surveyed Americans about their attitudes toward four areas of technology: workplace automation, driverless cars, robot caregivers, and computer algorithms that evaluate and hire job applicants.
The study found that nearly three out of four Americans “express worry” that robots and computers could perform jobs traditionally done by humans. Just over two thirds express worry about algorithms making hiring choices without human input.
“The public is extremely wary about allowing machines to replace human responsibilities and human decision-making,” lead author Aaron Smith, an associate director of research at Pew Research Center, said in a statement. “Although they anticipate some benefits from the growing trend toward automation, they worry that even the most advanced technologies can never truly duplicate the creativity and insight of humans. They also strongly support policies that limit the reach of automation technologies and that place humans more fully in control of their processes.”
Pew said Americans were more “balanced” in their views on driverless vehicles and robot caregivers in theory. However, when it comes to using those technologies themselves, 56 percent said they would not want to ride in a driverless car, and 59 percent said they would not want a robotic caregiver for themselves or a member of their family.
Given these feelings, many Americans support laws or policies that would “limit the scope of automation technologies,” with 87 percent saying driverless vehicles should have a human driver as a back up. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed said machines and robots should be limited to jobs that are “dangerous or unhealthy” for humans.
The Pew survey found Americans expect automation will likely impact a lot of industries, but few, about 30 percent, think they will be affected. For some jobs such as fast food workers and insurance claims processors, a majority of Americans think they will be performed by machines.
Only six percent of those surveyed said they have already felt the effects of automation through reduced hours or wages. Pew found that younger workers were more likely to have felt the effects of automation with 13 percent reporting they had.
Pew found that Americans largely believe automation will lead to greater inequality and potentially “leave people adrift in their lives.” More than three quarters said they think widespread automation will lead to greater inequality and 64 percent think people will have a hard time finding meaning in their lives. Only 25 percent believe automation will create higher paying jobs for humans.