IQ, Personality Traits May Help Ward Off Automation

IQ, Personality Traits May Help Ward Off Automation

Are you concerned that robots will take over your job in the future? A new study finds that jobs requiring human creativity, flexibility and social complexity are least likely to become automated.

In addition, people who are intelligent, creative, extraverted and who have a greater interest in arts and sciences are less likely to choose jobs that will become automated.

The study, published in the European Journal of Personality, is the first to investigate 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 extraversion, higher interests in arts and sciences … tended to select (or be selected) into less computerizable jobs 11 and 50 years later,” write the authors.

Lead author Dr. Rodica Damian, assistant professor of social and personality psychology at the University of Houston said the findings suggest traditional education may not be fully equipped to deal with the upcoming changes in the labor market, although she acknowledges the educational system has changed since the research subjects were in school in the 1960s.

“Robots can’t perform as well as humans when it comes to complex social interactions. 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.

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 won’t be enough to keep up with job automation, she said. “The edge is in unique human skills.”

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

Damian conducted the study with Drs. Marion Spengler of the University of Tuebingen in Germany and Brent W. Roberts of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Using a dataset of 346,660 individuals from the American Institutes of Research, which followed a representative sample of Americans over 50 years, the researchers looked at personality traits and vocational interests in adolescence, along with intelligence and socioeconomic status.

The findings show that every 15-point increase in IQ predicted a 7 percent drop in the probability of one’s job being computerized, the equivalent of saving 10.19 million people from losing their future careers to computerization if it were extrapolated across the entire U.S. population.

Similarly, an increase of one standard deviation in maturity or in scientific interests — equal to an increase of 1 point on a 5-point scale, such as moving from being indifferent to scientific activities to liking them fairly well — across the U.S. population would each be equivalent to 2.9 million people avoiding a job loss to computerization.

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

The researchers say an across-the-board increase in U.S. education levels could mean millions fewer jobs at risk. Targeting at-risk groups would also yield significant benefits, she said.

And while skeptics question whether the labor market will be able to absorb millions of higher skilled workers, Damian looks at it differently. “By preparing more people, at least more people will have a fighting chance,” she said.

Source: University of Houston

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Posted by Patricia Adams