Here’s Why Robots Might Not Be Taking Government Jobs Any Time Soon


We still don’t understand the full psychological impact of working with robots, a new analysis concludes.

Government buyers who want to invest in robots should also budget for training workers who will collaborate with those robots, a new analysis concludes.

Federal agencies are investing in automation today. The U.S. Navy uses unmanned aerial vehicles to search for pirates, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has used automated underwater vehicles to collect water temperature measurements.

But several factors could limit the widespread adoption of automated mechanisms in government, according to a new report from technology market research firm IDC, including:

  • Teaching humans to work with and control the robots. For example, passengers on autonomous cars need to know how to take control of a car if outside elements, such as traffic lights, aren’t working.
  • Managing the psychological impact of working with robots; “[T]here is an ongoing debate on the psychological consequences of military UAV pilots shooting at enemy targets thousands of miles away, while not being cognitively involved the same way aircraft pilots are,” the report says.
  • Raising low levels of public trust toward robots. A 2015 survey in the U.K. found 43 percent of respondents would not trust an autonomous car to drive safely.
  • Producing robots at scale, since specialized manufacturing capabilities for full robots, add-ons and fixtures aren’t mature yet.

IDC recommended that early adopters of automation in government -- such as defense, intelligence and public safety organizations -- start new pilot trials to demonstrate how the technology can be used. Government agencies should also communicate with each other and with the public about how robotics could change citizen life.

Long term, governments should budget for buying and scaling robots, but should also include set asides for education and training for robots developers and for those who will work directly with the robots.

(Image via /