Americans think AI will destroy other people’s jobs, but not theirs

A Gallup survey found that the majority of Americans believe AI will destroy jobs, but only a fraction of those people believe their own job will be replaced by the technology.
23 March 2018

According to a Gallup study, only 23 percent of American workers fear they will lose their own job to technology | Source: Shutterstock

It is no secret that many people around the globe are terrified at the prospect of robots with algorithmic-veins and metal hearts marching in and replacing humans in the workforce.

But apparently, these people are not quite so concerned about their own jobs being snatched away from them.

According to a recent Gallup survey, although 75 percent of US adults shared beliefs that AI will ‘eliminate more jobs than it creates’, only 23 percent of American workers fear they will lose their own job to technology.

At present, there is no research on definite predictions on exactly how many or what types of jobs will be affected most as a result of continued automation and advanced technologies like artificial intelligence.

However, most experts in the field suggest that the industries most likely to be hit hardest by the march of AI will be low-skilled jobs. This includes customer support, food-preparation workers, dishwashers, and general mechanics.

Artificial intelligence is already transforming many industries, including customer support | Source: Shutterstock

It should come as no surprise then, that the opinions of the respondents varied depending on their levels of educations.

For those respondents with a four-year college degree or less, 28 percent were worried about AI taking their job. But for those people with at least a bachelor degree, this figure was at 15 percent.

The “it’s not my problem” finding

The Gallup survey isn’t the first research to come to these conclusions. One survey carried out by Quartz last year found that 90 percent of respondents believed that up to half of all jobs would be taken over by AI in five years. However, 91 percent believed that there was no risk to their own jobs.

A study carried out by the Pew Research Center in 2016 also found the same. Of the respondents surveyed, 65 percent said that 50 years from now, automation would take over “much” of the work currently being carried out by humans. But much like the other findings, 80 percent believed their own job would still be safe from the wrath of AI in this time frame.

So… who’s losing their job?

It seems that no one is really that sure on the effects of AI technology on the workplace, with many experts divided.

The studies that attempt to estimate the effects of robotics and AI on jobs vary significantly. For instance, some findings claim that as much as one billion jobs will be destroyed by as soon as 2022, while others predict that by 2030 up to 800 million jobs will be lost globally, but more than this number will be gained.

The methodology used in these studies also varies wildly. For instance, what qualifies as artificial intelligence and when a job is destroyed are up for debate.

Leaders in Silicon Valley also vary with their opinions on the effects of the technology. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has described artificial intelligence as our “biggest existential threat” and compared its development as “summoning the demon”.

On the other hand, executive chairmen of Alphabet Inc, Eric Schmidt, believes that the advantages of automation from AI will outweigh any jobs lost because of the technology.

AI is already widespread in the daily lives of Americans

While many people are concerned with the possibility of AI one day stealing their job, the Gallup study also found that many of the respondents have already embraced AI in their daily lives.

The research found that almost nine in 10 Americans reported using products with AI elements. Such products include navigation apps, digital assistants, and video or music streaming devices.

The most popular form of AI-infused products were navigation apps such as Waze or Google Maps.

“Whether they know it or not, AI has moved into a big percent of Americans’ lives in one way or another already,” Frank Newport, Editor-in-Chief of Gallup, told The New York Times.