Survey: Americans want to limit robots to ‘dangerous’ and ‘unhealthy’ jobs

Workers of the future may be competing for jobs against machines who can work longer, harder, and without complaint. And we are increasingly aware of this future. The majority of Americans believe that robots will replace our jobs in 50 years. As you look at your ordinary, human body, it’s easy to feel anxious about how our bodies and brains can measure up.

How can we fight against our approaching obsolescence? In a new Pew Research Center survey, Americans offered solutions to manage machines before they manage us.

Overwhelming majority: Restrict robots to dirty and dangerous jobs

First things first, the machines have to be reminded of their place. The overwhelming majority of the 4,135 U.S. adults surveyed — 85% — said that they would support restricting automated jobs to those that are “dangerous or unhealthy for humans to do.” Automated machines can continue to do the grunt work, in other words, while we get the opportunity to pursue more creative, less monotonous tasks.

Majority support government income for displaced workers

Although Americans surveyed were split on whether it was the government’s responsibility or the individual’s to handle how exactly we are going to restrict machines’ jobs, the majority of us think we should get compensated for living with the effects of automation.

More than half of those surveyed thought that there should be some sort of government policy guaranteeing a basic income for workers displaced by machines even if they can do work faster than us.

Where automation is actually heading…

Automation, however, is heading in a very different direction than these survey respondents might hope. Machines are continuing to replace jobs that are not particularly dangerous or unhealthy. McDonald’s and Shake Shack, for example, have both recently announced that they are replacing the role of cashiers with self-order kiosks at certain locations.

Meanwhile, robots and AIs are taking over more and more white-collar tasks, such as providing therapy and screening job candidates.