Have you ever commiserated with your colleagues that your boss acts like an automaton?

This soon might be more than just a figure of speech – and some employees don't necessarily think that would be a bad thing.

By 2030, up to 800 million workers around the world could be replaced by machines. The fear of rampaging robots isn’t just restricted to jobs. Leaders in emerging technology, such as Elon Musk, have suggested artificial intelligence (AI) is “a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization.”

But a new survey shows some workers have much friendlier views toward AI. Oracle and Future Workplace found 82% of workers believe robot managers are better at certain tasks – such as maintaining work schedules and providing unbiased information – than their human counterparts.

And almost two-thirds (64%) of workers worldwide say they would trust a robot more than their human manager. In China and India, that figure rises to almost 90%.

Robots are trusted by employees with highly organized tasks, such as workflow management.
Almost two-thirds of workers worldwide trust a robot manager more than a human manager.
Image: Oracle/Future Workplace

The use of robotics in Asia is growing rapidly. Sales of industrial robots in India jumped by 39% in a year, while China is aiming to become one of the world’s most automated nations by 2020.

Artificial intelligence is boosting productivity

The implementation of AI technology, including robots, is expected to add as much as $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. Automating routine tasks and administration will free employees up to focus on more complex work, while product development will become more agile as machines learn rapidly about what customers want.

The research recognizes that robots can bring complementary skills to the workplace. More than half of those surveyed by Oracle/Future Workplace say they're excited about having robot co-workers. Millennials are particularly enthusiastic.

There is growing enthusiasm for human-robot work partnerships.
There is growing enthusiasm for human-robot work partnerships.
Image: International Federation of Robotics

There’s room for humans and machines

Our workplaces are changing – and not necessarily for the worse. A World Economic Forum report on the future of work suggests that while 75 million jobs may be lost to automation by 2022, another 133 million additional new roles will be created.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The World Economic Forum was the first to draw the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological advances. Policies, norms and regulations have not been able to keep up with the pace of innovation, creating a growing need to fill this gap.

The Forum established the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017 to ensure that new and emerging technologies will help—not harm—humanity in the future. Headquartered in San Francisco, the network launched centres in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is rapidly establishing locally-run Affiliate Centres in many countries around the world.

The global network is working closely with partners from government, business, academia and civil society to co-design and pilot agile frameworks for governing new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, blockchain, data policy, digital trade, drones, internet of things (IoT), precision medicine and environmental innovations.

Learn more about the groundbreaking work that the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is doing to prepare us for the future.

Want to help us shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Contact us to find out how you can become a member or partner.

Those new roles – as well as stable occupations such as human resources specialists and university lecturers – are likely to play on our creativity and ability to empathize with colleagues.

Respondents to the AI at Work study said human bosses were still better at understanding their feelings, coaching, and creating a supportive and motivating work climate.

“AI is redefining not only the relationship between worker and manager, but also the role of a manager in an AI-driven workplace,” says Dan Schawbel, Research Director at Future Workplace.

“Managers will remain relevant in the future if they focus on being human and using their soft skills, while leaving the technical skills and routine tasks to robots.”