Worried about robots taking over your job? Take interest in arts, sciences

Worried about robots taking over your job? People who have higher IQs and show an interest in arts and sciences are less likely to fall victim to the growing threat of automation, scientists say.

The findings highlight the importance of personality traits, intelligence and vocational interests in determining how well people fare in a changing labour market, according to the researchers.

"Robots can't perform as well as humans when it comes to complex social interactions," said Rodica Damian, assistant professor at University of Houston in the US.

"Humans also outperform machines when it comes to tasks that require creativity and a high degree of complexity that is not routine. As soon as you require flexibility, the human does better," said Damian, lead author of the study published in the European Journal of Personality.

Researchers used a dataset of 346,660 people, looking at personality traits and vocational interests in adolescence, along with intelligence and socioeconomic status.

The study is the first to look at how a variety of personality and background factors predict whether a person will select jobs that are more (or less) likely to be automated in the future.

"We found that regardless of social background, people with higher levels of intelligence, higher levels of maturity and extroversion, higher interests in arts and sciences tended to select (or be selected) into less computerisable jobs 11 and 50 years later," researchers said.

The findings suggest traditional education may not be fully equipped to address upcoming changes in the labour market, Damian said.

"Perhaps we should consider training personality characteristics that will help prepare people for future jobs," she said.

The researchers found that every 15-point increase in IQ predicted a seven per cent drop in the probability of one's job being computerised, the equivalent of saving 10.19 million people from losing their future careers to computerisation if it were extrapolated across the entire US population.

While IQ is not easily changed, a solution could be to find effective interventions to increase some personality traits — doing well in social interactions, for example, or being industrious - or interest in activities related to the arts and sciences, Damian said.

Machine learning and big data will allow the number of tasks that machines can perform better than humans to increase so rapidly that merely increasing educational levels would not be enough to keep up with job automation, she said.

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