People are weird.

It's easier to lose your job if your replacement is a robot.

In an interesting bit of industrial psychology, a study led by the Technical University of Munich (Germany) found that most people (60 percent) would find it easier to lose their jobs to robots than to other people. According to the researchers, "being replaced by robots (versus other humans) poses a less immediate threat to people's self-worth."

On the other hand, when talking about co-workers who were being replaced, the majority of respondents preferred that the co-workers be replaced by other people. (Sixty-seven percent wanted co-workers to be replaced by humans versus 33 percent who wanted them to be replaced by robots.)

When asking about co-worker replacements, "robotic replacement induced more negative emotions (that is, sadness, anger and frustration) than human replacement. . . . However, this negative emotional reaction reversed when participants contemplated the prospect of their own job; in this case, robotic replacement induced less negative emotions than human replacement."

Weird, huh? I guess it's hard for a human to envy something that isn't human.

The authors conclude,

Our findings suggest that interventions targeted at restoring feelings of competence and self-worth . . . should be less of a priority when workers attribute their job loss to automation as opposed to human replacement. In contrast, for those workers who attribute their job loss to automation, it would be better to devote all resources to interventions targeted at upgrading skills and retraining. . . . [W]e speculate that job seekers who attribute their job loss to automation should show less inertia in reskilling than other job seekers who are often too optimistic in the face of job loss. Therefore, they should benefit particularly from interventions that address market conditions and guide them towards new (in-demand) occupations."

I wonder what quirks we'll someday find that our robot replacements have?

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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