For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"“You’re fired,” says the robot: The rise of automation in the workplace, technophobes, and fears of unemployment"

by McClure, Paul K (2018)


The rapid adoption of new technologies in the workplace, especially robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), has motivated some researchers to determine what effects such technologies may have. Few scholars, however, have examined the possibility that a large segment of the population is apprehensive about the quick pace of technological change and encroachment into modern life. Drawing from economic projections about the future of the digital economy and from literature in the sociology of technology and emotions, this article explores whether certain fears of technology exacerbate fears of unemployment and financial insecurity. Using data from Wave 2 of the Chapman Survey of American Fears (N = 1,541), I find that there exists a sizable population of “technophobes” or those who fear robots, AI, and technology they do not understand. Technophobes are also more likely than nontechnophobes to report having anxiety-related mental health issues and to fear unemployment and financial insecurity. With advances in robotics and AI, the threat of technological unemployment is discussed as a real concern among a substantial portion of the American population.

Key Passage

In the end, the trajectory of the digital economy may mean that an unprecedented number of citizens could lose their jobs to robots and software that can work for cheaper and for longer hours than any human. If such a transformation occurs, it will most likely be gradual (Susskind & Susskind, 2016), but even so, anticipating the individual and social outcomes is a matter worth pursuing. Hopefully, by recognizing the potential dangers of unemployment and by assessing both the trajectories and discourses associated with newer technologies, social scientists will be more equipped to discuss the implications of robotics, AI, and other technologies that are not well understood. At this moment, however, the relative inattention that has been given to this area of study should lead to new questions; catalyze more studies at the intersection of technology, culture, and the economy; and provoke new criticisms of present research, this one included. (p.153)


Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Mental Health, Technology, Worker Replacement, Unemployment


Unemployment, Robots, Automation

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