Afraid of A.I. taking your job? Yep, you likely are

Despite being told emerging tech will help, many people still anxious

robot worker ts

Despite the promise that robots and artificial intelligence actually could help many people do their jobs better, most simply aren't buying it.

And a lot of people are still afraid that emerging technology will steal their jobs.

Only 4% of 2,000 people surveyed said they thought emerging technologies would make their jobs easier, while 48% of those familiar with the idea of disruptive technologies fear it will cause layoffs in their industry and more than 38% said it might cost them their jobs personally. This is according to a new study from SelectHub, a company focused on helping enterprises make technology decisions.

Who's the most anxious about being replaced by a robot or another smart system?

Those working in publishing, retail, and construction, according to SelectHub's study .

The optimists are in real estate, government and technology; these workers tend to think emerging technologies actually will increase the number of jobs or help them do their jobs.

select hub survey SelectHub

Nearly half of workers in the publishing, retail and construction fields are concerned about losing their jobs because of the impact of artificial intelligence.

SelectHub's report isn't quite as optimistic, though.

"The least concerned respondents worked in real estate, where less than 22% were concerned about layoffs," the report noted. "While real estate may seem like an industry that requires a human touch, certain research suggests artificial intelligence . . . could eventually even replace traditional real estate agents and brokers."

The report also noted that artificial intelligence already can automate the house hunting process. Consumers can enter specific parameters -- among them budget, location and style of house -- into a system and receive hundreds of recommended listings.

It's not surprising that people are worried.

Last September, Forrester Research released a report contending that in just five years, smart systems and robots could replace up to 6% of jobs in the United States.

Then last month, a Japanese insurance company put a face on that prediction when it replaced 34 of its workers with an A.I. system .

However, not every view of the future of work and smart machines is dire.

Some scientists, like Tom Dietterich, a professor and director of intelligent systems at Oregon State University, say smart systems should start to act as increasingly powerful digital assistants that will be used to help people train and do their jobs .

Working with machines, humans could become super human.

For instance, at Stitch Fix, a San Francisco-based online subscription and shopping service, professional stylists, with the help of an A.I. and a team of data scientists, pick out clothes for their customers .

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he's not surprised that despite instances like Stitch Fix, people are still worried that emerging technologies, like A.I. and robotics, will take their jobs.

"This is really fearing the unknown," he said. "I suspect people said the same thing during the industrial revolution when assembly processes were being automated... I think, right now people are terrified. It's a scary thing thinking about a robot coming and doing your job."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said we're entering a time of dramatic change and people would be smart to consider how their industries will be affected and if they should start to prepare now.

"I absolutely believe there will be new jobs created by robotics and automation," he said. "We will need more people to architect, design, develop, program, market, sell and build robots."

Kerravala said now is a good time for people to consider adding skills in one of these up-and-coming fields.

"People need to focus on retraining," he said. "As technology continues to evolve, change will happen faster and we all need to be in a mode of constantly retraining."

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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