Technology 3 min read

Why It's A Bad Idea For Machines To Work With Humans

In a new study, researchers discovered that the performance of workplace robots can have a negative effect on the performance of its human co-workers

Workplace robots may negatively effect the performance of human workers, and that may be a major issue in the future. ¦ Shutterstock

Workplace robots may negatively effect the performance of human workers, and that may be a major issue in the future. ¦ Shutterstock

With the current advancements in AI and machine learning, workplace robots are considered a smart way to boost office productivity. However, studies suggest that the machines may have the opposite effect on human workers.

According to a team of researchers from Cornell University, humans consider themselves less competent when beaten by robots in contests for cash prizes.

As a result, they tend to expend less effort on the task and ultimately end up disliking the robots.

How A Competition Between Humans and Workplace Robots Reduces Productivity

In what may be a world’s first, roboticists and behavioral economists from the university teamed up to explore an interesting topic. The researchers wanted to understand the effects of the robot’s performance on human behavior and how both parties react when competing against each other simultaneously.

So, the researchers pitted humans against a robot in a contest. The competitors were required to count the number of times the letter G appeared in a string of characters, then place a block in the bin for every occurrence.

The researchers then created a lottery – using the difference between the human’s and robot’s scores – to determine each participant’s chance of winning. If both human and robot had the same score, the human’s chance of winning would be 50 percent. And the odds rose or dropped based on how each participant performed.

At the end of each round, the participants filled out a questionnaire to rate their competence and the robot’s as well. They also had to say how much they liked the machine. Although the participants ranked the robot’s competence higher than theirs, they rated the likability lower.

The Implication of the Findings

The findings confirmed what behavioral economists already hinted in theories of loss aversion – that people won’t try as hard when their competitors are doing better.

Co-author of the study and assistant professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Guy Hoffman wrote:

“Humans and machines already share many workplaces, sometimes working on similar or even identical tasks.”

Consider a scenario where a cashier is working alongside an automatic check-out machine. Although it’s natural to design such workplace robots for optimal productivity, Hoffman points out that it may not be a good idea.

“Engineers and managers must consider how the robots’ performance may affect the human workers’ effort and attitudes toward the robot and even toward themselves,”

Read More: KFC Adds Robot Servers and AI Menus to Chinese Locations

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

Comments (11)
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  1. Profile Image
    Shannon Harrington March 14 at 6:11 am GMT

    We are unknowingly taken over!

  2. Profile Image
    Paul Weidner March 14 at 10:08 am GMT

    Definitely. However, robots are invented to assist human lives and not to make human obsolete.

    • Profile Image
      Shannon Harrington March 15 at 3:47 am GMT

      I got your point, Paul but the possibility of robots replacing human is very high. In terms of efficiency and it seems intimidating for a human to work with robots in the same workplace.

      • Profile Image
        Paul Weidner March 19 at 4:50 am GMT

        That’s right but we cannot avoid innovation. 🙂

  3. Profile Image
    JAMES EDE March 14 at 4:15 pm GMT

    Yes. They would make life easier for the customers. But the workers workforce would decrease and you can be sure those workers won’t feel like they where “assisted” Paul.

    • Profile Image
      Paul Weidner March 14 at 10:24 pm GMT

      Hi James! Unfortunately, humanity is just not as efficient as our own creation but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will replace human anytime soon. Human is more complex than robots.

      • Profile Image
        JAMES EDE March 15 at 6:25 am GMT

        You should tell that to a typical African man who just lost his job.
        I’m quite sure he and his colleagues won’t see it that way and might even try to destroy the machines that took away their source of living.
        I think if such robots that would cause mass retrenchment are made, alternatives should be made for the humans they displaced.
        But i guess this won’t be an issue in the US and a majority if not all African states aren’t close to using robot technology yet.

        • Profile Image
          JAMES EDE March 15 at 6:27 am GMT

          Try to filter through the typos, i sent from a mobile device.

        • Profile Image
          Paul Weidner March 19 at 4:55 am GMT

          human rights are a very sensitive topic but innovation drives the business sector to turn to the advancement or else they will be left behind.

  4. Profile Image
    Derrick Vanwyk March 16 at 12:47 pm GMT

    Robotics is very interesting but no doubt, an existential threat.

  5. Profile Image
    Sharp Smith July 25 at 1:13 pm GMT

    A huge group of work in the field of human-robot association has taken a gander at how people and robots may better team-up. A typical way to deal with program expressive gestures into robots is to initially examine human-human practices and after that move the learning.

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