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Study: ‘Personality Factors’ Might Save Your Job From the Robots

Topics: Data & Research

In 2013, researchers from Oxford University predicted that robots will replace human workers in up to 47 percent of U.S. jobs over the next 20 years. But a new study shows that if you have a relatively high IQ and had an interest in arts and sciences during school, your job might be safer than most.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Houston and published in the European Journal of Personality, examined American Institutes of Research data from 346,660 people over a period of 50 years. Researchers analyzed factors such as the subjects’ vocational interests and personality traits during adolescence, as well as their IQ and socioeconomic status.

“We found that regardless of social background, people with higher levels of intelligence, higher levels of maturity and extraversion, higher interests in arts and sciences … tended to select (or be selected) into less computerizable jobs 11 and 50 years later,” the researchers wrote, per Science Daily.

Why Are Some Jobs Less Vulnerable to Automation?

“Robots can’t perform as well as humans when it comes to complex social interactions,” lead author Rodica Damian, assistant professor of social and personality psychology at the University of Houston, told Science Daily. “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.”

This dovetails with the findings of the earlier research from Oxford. Researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne identified three “computerization bottlenecks” — factors that make tasks more difficult for robots than people:

  • Perception and Manipulation (e.g. Manual Dexterity)
  • Creative Intelligence
  • Social Intelligence

Do You Know What You're Worth?

In other words, jobs that depend on creative thinking or emotional labor are probably safe, at least for now, while low-skilled jobs that don’t require a great deal of manual dexterity are in greater danger of being automated.

And while you can’t go back in time and change your interests while you were in high school, you can learn from this growing body of research, and look for ways to differentiate yourself from your robot competitors. Creativity, flexibility, emotional intelligence — all these factors add up to the human touch that robots can’t replicate.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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