The Industrial Revolution changed how work was organized. Mechanization brought along a dramatic increase in labor efficiency. But while such a remarkable change helped to increase production, people were less relaxed when it came to what the future will bring. Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the first major artistic piece that transposed these anxieties into modern literary forms. Space Odyssey 2001 and The Terminator are more recent artistic productions conveying the same human fear of artificial intelligence. So would humans prefer robots as bosses instead of other humans?
A study comes to contradict these ingrained popular feelings of anxeity. In real life situations, it seems that people not only that do not have problems in collaborating with robots, but they actually prefer taking orders from them, instead of their bosses.
MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) hosted a series of experiments looking at how humans collaborate with robots in a project lead by Matthew Gombolay, a PhD student at CSAIL.
“In our research we were seeking to find that sweet spot for ensuring that the human workforce is both satisfied and productive,” says Gombolay. “We discovered that the answer is to actually give machines more autonomy, if it helps people to work together more fluently with robot teammates.”
Another report released by Pew Research Center Internet Project included opinions of experts on the matter of robots taking over jobs soon and the conclusions are not sunny.
Humans prefer robots as bosses because it’s more efficient
Researchers organized three working situations involving two humans and one robot. According to the criteria ‘who is in charge’, in the first group, categorized as ‘manual’ a human assigned the task. In the semi-autonomous group one human assigned his/her tasks, while the robot allocated the task for the other human. In the ‘fully autonomous’ situation, the robot allocated the tasks of both humans.
When the robot was in charge, the tasks were performed the most effectively. Moreover, the humans were more content with the arrangement, as the robot “better understood them” and “improved the efficiency of the team,” MIT declares. So humans prefer robots as bosses as it makes the labor process less complicated.
Gombolay naively claims that because the algorithms are produced by humans, cyborgs will not take over the show. The aim of this research is to create improved algorithms that will increase the efficiency of work in various situations and environments.
Technological unemployment is one of the greatest fears for workers in many sectors. One solution to counter the negative social effects would be the introduction of a universal basic income. Now it’s the time to start debating the solutions.