Introverts beware: Personality traits predict whether robots will steal your job

New research shows that personality traits that we possess in youth can predict whether we'll choose jobs that will be automated in the next 20 years. This information can help workers prepare for the emerging labor market as robots and computers displace jobs.
Written by Kelly McSweeney, Contributor

High schoolers who are extroverted, mature, highly intelligent, or interested in arts and sciences have a fighting chance against the robots and computers that will steal jobs in the future.

A new study finds that people with certain personality traits are more likely to choose jobs that won't be automated in the future. Job preference is especially important now, since economists estimate that 47 percent of jobs in the US are at high risk of being automated (i.e. done by computers or smart machines) in the next 20 years.

By analyzing a dataset of 346,660 people, the researchers proved that certain personality types are prone to choose particular careers. It makes sense -- extroverts might enjoy customer-facing jobs, for example, while introverts would rather work behind the scenes. Couple this fact with other experts predicting which jobs will soon be done by computers and robots, and we have an interesting peek into the future.

In a paper published in the European Journal of Personality, the researchers wrote, "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, and lower interests in things and people tended to select (or be selected) into less computerizable jobs 11 years later. Furthermore, all these effects were consistent with the effects found 50 years later."

If you (or your kids) don't fit that description, don't worry -- you don't have to possess all these characteristics to have a positive career outlook. Dr. Rodica Damian, assistant professor of social and personality psychology at the University of Houston and lead author of the study tells us, "Any combination of them or any single one should already be beneficial (e.g., you may have a highly introverted but scientifically oriented person who would presumably be very safe if their job was to come up with new kinds of robots)."

Plus, even people who don't naturally possess any of the "job-safe" traits can still develop skills that will help them prepare for the robotized future. Now that the researchers have uncovered the personality traits, education, and vocational training could focus on how to best prepare individuals and future generations for the emerging labor market.

To decrease the chance of losing your job to automation, Damian suggests, "Get a higher level of education and develop interests in arts, sciences, leadership, or athletics, and try to seek a career that requires high degrees of complexity, flexibility, and non-routine tasks or fine motor skills."

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