July 23, 2015
The relationship between mankind and the beings it creates has been a staple of science fiction ever since Mary Shelley first dreamt up her tale of Frankenstein and his creature. It’s an enduring idea because it poses questions about the nature of life and what it means to be human. We’re now about to address those questions in real life for the first time and we’ll need to address their mundane as well as profound implications, including the advent of robots in the workplace. As things stand, the problem is that you can come up with any answer you like to these questions because, for every report that a robot has displayed a degree of self awareness, another will tell you about a robot in Germany crushing a man to death. And for every piece of footage disconcertingly showing a robot learning to clear hurdles like an Arab stallion, you can find dozens of them falling over like drunks.
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In spite of these conflicting reports, there is a general assumption that most people do not welcome our new robot overlords. But, according to a small scale study by office products comparison website Expert Market, it appears that the majority of managers will be quite happy to have a mixed human – robotic workforce. According to their survey of 200 people, nearly three quarters (70 percent) of managers would consider employing a robot with only 15 percent concerned that robots ‘are taking over the world’. Nearly half (47 percent) of those surveyed admitted that they would not feel guilty about employing a machine ahead of a human being.
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Indeed, the survey suggests that most managers have an underlying belief that robots will be preferable in many ways. Two thirds (68 percent) think that a lot of their work could be done by a robot, especially administrative tasks, although they think that certain creative roles will be beyond them. The benefits of employing robots identified by managers read like a human resources wish list including fewer sick days, more predictable work standards and no need to worry about retention.
The key findings of the study include:
- 70 percent of managers asked would consider using a robot on their team
- Tasks they would assign to robots include admin, answering the phone, emailing and report writing
- Top benefits of having a robot staff member included not taking sick days, doing things to a consistent standard, and not having to worry that they would leave for another job
- The only concerns the managers had were that robots had no creativity and no emotional attachment to their work
- Only 15 percent of those asked were worried about robots taking over the world
- Most would prefer their robot to look like a machine (79 percent) and most found the idea of a human-looking robot disconcerting
- 68 percent said quite a lot of their own work could be done by a robot
- 56 percent said they would let a robot lookalike to do their job so they had more free time
- Jobs that most managers thought could be done by robots were Office Manager (52 percent) IT (44 percent) and Finance (28 percent) with most agreeing that creative jobs like PR, Design or the role of CEO could not be performed by a robot
- Almost half (47 percent) of managers would not feel bad hiring a robot over a human