A shocking number of people would opt for a robot boss over a human one

At some point in the last five years, automation stopped being a dirty word to workers. In fact, according to a new survey a significant number of people would happily call a robot their boss.

Recently Oracle teamed up with Future Workplace to explore the potential of a technology-rich job market. In their massive new survey of workers from around the world, we learned that most people (64%) would actually prefer a robot boss to a human one.

“People are no longer afraid of the robots. They have experienced how AI and machine learning can improve the way they work in a very pragmatic way. And the more they use these technologies, the more excited they are about them.” explained Emily He,  who is the Senior Vice President, HCM Marketing, at Oracle

This year’s edition of the Global AI@Work Study was conducted on behalf of Oracle and Future Work by research agency, Savanta. The preceding survey was administered between July 2 and August 9 of 2019 and featured  8,370 employed respondents.

“Artificial intelligence is winning more hearts and minds in the workplace”

This gradual change of heart might have something to do with a rapid increase in prevalence. When Oracle conducted its survey last year only 32% of the firms involved relied on some form of automation. This year that figure has jumped to 50%. 

Before we unpack the implications I think it’s important to address a lingering assumption. Automation does not exclusively refer to the supplanting of human labor with machine labor. The fact that advanced robotics are occupying more and more industries does not necessarily spell disaster for the working class.

It does, however, present us with several key challenges. If we want technology to benefit our economy we have to match its breakneck momentum with flexibility. Thankfully this seems to be exercised in more and more companies.

Most of the respondents involved in Oracle’s new poll said that they are both excited and optimistic at the prospect of new technologies being added to their office. Even if they were divided when it came down to the primary reason behind their enthusiasm.

Thirty-six percent believed that machine labor would help employees learn new skills, an additional 36% said it would free up their schedule and the remaining thought it might help them expand their role and in turn help them move them up the corporate ladder more quickly. The supervisors that took part in the study voiced a similarly positive outlook.

From the report: “The numbers speak volumes. As just one example, analysis by PWC predicts that AI could contribute up to a whopping $15.7 trillion to the global economy as soon as 2030. Of this, $6.6 trillion will likely come from increased productivity; $9.1 trillion, from consumption-side effects.”

For subordinates, the integration of artificial intelligence wasn’t spirited by economic markers alone but office culture and executive competence. As it stands workers don’t seem to trust their supervisors very much. 

Robo-boss

A fair amount of the participants in Oracle’s poll reported that a robo-boss would quell many of their anxieties about malpractice.

Eighty-percent of respondents believed that a robot could lead their respective team’s better than their human boss currently does, 64% said that a robot was simply more trustworthy and 50% of workers employed at an office that uses artificial intelligence have asked a robot for advice instead of their boss on at least one occasion.

More directly, respondents felt that a robot would be better at providing unbiased information, maintaining work schedules, evaluating team performance and listening to confidential information without judging.

It’s unclear if the majority of workers predict that robots will replace their boss on behalf of wishful thinking—though this forecast was more prevalent among Generation Z compared to Millenials and Baby Boomers.

The report continues,  “Additional analysis of our survey findings suggests that the employee/manager relationship may not just be shape-shifting; its very existence may be called into question. Specifically, 32% of all workers in our study said they believe that robots will replace their managers,” the report concludes.

“Worries about complexity as well as data security and privacy could be barriers to AI adoption in the workplace. To get the most from AI and machine learning technology, companies must explain how they are using AI ethically, as well as offer solutions to address security and privacy concerns.”

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