Robots demoralise their human colleagues leaving them ‘disheartened’ and less motivated, a new study has revealed.
Automatons are increasingly replacing people in workplaces where simple jobs can easily be done almost for free by replacing costly staff.
Engineers designed a game pitting man vs machine to measure the effect of this process, and found people lost heart the longer the game went on.
Humans who played the game against robots for cash prizes became demoralised because they were beaten so badly that they saw themselves as less competent.
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Humans who played a game against robots for cash prizes became demoralised because they found themselves less competent. In an experiment, human workers played against a robot arm for money to see what happens to a worker’s drive in an automated workplace
Researchers from Cornell University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem devised the experiment.
The task, which involved 61 participants, involved counting how often the letter G showed in a list of characters.
They then were then asked to put a corresponding number of blocks in a bin.
Experts found that the people participating didn’t try as hard and tended to dislike the automated appendage that was beating them.
One participant admitted that they ‘felt very stressed competing with the robot.’
‘In some rounds, I kept seeing the robot’s score increasing out of the corner of my eye, which was extremely nerve-racking,’ they added.
In some rounds the robots were set to a slower mode which gave participants the confidence to up their game and work faster.
Scientists found that the humans liked a low-performing competitor robot more than a high-performing one, even though they considered the latter to be more competent.
However, another participant said that it was obvious when the robot was ‘going easy’ on them.
When humans unsuccessfully vied against it, participants ended up viewing themselves as less competent and therefore ‘disheartened’. The task, which involved 61 participants, was counting how often the letter G showed in a list of characters
The study was the first to bring experts in behaviour and robotics to explore how a robot’s performance affects humans when competing against each other simultaneously.
In an ever-increasing automated workplace, the researchers said that their findings have serious implications.
‘Humans and machines already share many workplaces, sometimes working on similar or even identical tasks,’ said Guy Hoffman, assistant professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
‘Think about a cashier working side-by-side with an automatic check-out machine, or someone operating a forklift in a warehouse which also employs delivery robots driving right next to them.
‘While it may be tempting to design such robots for optimal productivity, engineers and managers need to take into consideration how the robots’ performance may affect the human workers’ effort and attitudes toward the robot and even toward themselves. Our research is the first that specifically sheds light on these effects.’
A paper entitled Monetary-Incentive Competition Between Humans and Robots: Experimental Results published the full results of the study.
WILL YOUR JOB BE TAKEN BY A ROBOT?
A report in November 2017 suggested that physical jobs in predictable environments, including machine-operators and fast-food workers, are the most likely to be replaced by robots.
Management consultancy firm McKinsey, based in New York, focused on the amount of jobs that would be lost to automation, and what professions were most at risk.
The report said collecting and processing data are two other categories of activities that increasingly can be done better and faster with machines.
This could displace large amounts of labour – for instance, in mortgages, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing.
Conversely, jobs in unpredictable environments are least are risk.
The report added: ‘Occupations such as gardeners, plumbers, or providers of child- and eldercare – will also generally see less automation by 2030, because they are technically difficult to automate and often command relatively lower wages, which makes automation a less attractive business proposition.’