Afraid of Robots? They Make Some People Fear More Than Just Losing Their Jobs

Did you know that people who are afraid of robots and other high technology are also afraid of losing their jobs and suffer from anxiety-related mental health issues?  That's what a new study is saying.

I suppose it makes sense.  I would imagine that something that seems so out of (your) body would be pretty threatening if you're a little timid about the world.

According to, more than a third of study participants fear job loss to technology more than they do romantic rejection, public speaking and police brutality.  That also makes sense.  Who  do you know who doesn't know computers can easily get a job?

But they're actually not alone.

“If you’re afraid of losing your job to a robot, you’re not alone,” says researcher Paul McClure, a sociologist in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. “This is a real concern among a substantial portion of the American population. They are not simply a subgroup of generally fearful people.”

Previous research has found that employees with little job security suffer from poorer mental health and that unemployment and job insecurity are often linked to heart disease and mortality rates.

McClure’s study found that:

• 37 percent fit the definition of a “technophobe” — someone who is either afraid or very afraid of such automation as robots in the workforce, decision-making robots, technology they don’t understand, artificial intelligence and people trusting artificial intelligence to do work.
• Those in historically marginalized groups — women, non-whites and the less educated — report being most fearful of technology.
• Technophobes are three times more likely to be fearful of unemployment when compared to others, and nearly three times more likely to fear not having enough money in the future.

But it's not just computers and robots this group worries about.  Technophobes have 95 percent greater odds of not being able to stop or control worrying when compared to others, and 76 percent greater odds of feeling as if something awful might happen.  (Actually, I'm not afraid of either but I suffer from that, too!)

Respondents were asked about their fears and worries about politics, crime, natural and man-made disasters, technology, mental health and unemployment. They also were asked about their anxieties, worries, sleep patterns, restlessness, inability to relax, susceptibility to irritation and feelings of dread.

Anxiety about job loss to automation is nothing new, McClure adds.  But some researchers in economics caution that the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence in the next several years will be much more rapid than job displacement of the past — particularly for those with routine job responsibilities. Those potentially could span the blue- and white-collar divide, from truck drivers and warehouse workers to loan officers and paralegals, rather than manual laborers in non-routine jobs.  Those of you in advertising or marketing or journalism or something creative?  Guess what?  You're in there, too.

And it's not just jobs.  You have to admit -- the thought of self-driving cars is enough to make you, well, me, at least, want to take a drink.

“People in certain occupations may legitimately fear losing their jobs to robots and software that can work for cheaper and for longer hours than any human," he says.  And while a transformation would most likely be gradual, it could trigger a major social unrest among those who are displaced from their jobs, McClure points out.

“Regardless of whether technology might lead to certain people’s jobs becoming obsolete, the fear itself is real.”


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