Should I worry about robots?

Nearly 2 out of 3 adults think automation and artificial intelligence will put jobs at risk. Some are right to be afraid. For others, the robot threat is debatable.

For instance, many experts expect self-driving trucks to roll autonomously on the highway, but they also predict drivers will still be needed to navigate local streets, where challenges can be more unexpected. According to a report from Working Partnership USA and the UC Berkeley Labor Center, the growth of online purchases and decline in freight costs could create more driving jobs than the number lost to automation.

What we do know is that automation is good at eliminating repetitive tasks. Think of how the washing machine revolutionized domestic work. It’s likely routine jobs, which are often low-wage, low-skill positions, will be more susceptible to robots.

And California’s 10 largest occupations are topped by low-wage jobs, from personal care aides and retail staff and cashiers to food service workers and laborers. Most of these jobs are too difficult for robots, but it’s likely some can be automated to a degree. Take, for instance, ordering kiosks at McDonald’s or self-check out lanes at Safeway.