Almost 90% of Chinese workers trust a robot more than their human managers, survey finds

Two thirds of survey respondents said they are optimistic and grateful about having a robot co-worker.

Many people have sounded a warning that artificial intelligence could become one of the biggest job-killing technologies of all time.

While the jury is still out on that one, a recent survey has better news for the industry, finding that 88% of Chinese workers have more trust in robots than in their human managers.

China’s trust level of robots in the workplace is well above the world average, where about two-thirds of workers trust artificial intelligence (AI) over their managers, but slightly behind India at 89%, according to a study by US software company Oracle and research firm Future Workplace released on Tuesday.

According to the survey, respondents believe AI has an advantage over humans in terms of work scheduling, offering unbiased information, and problem solving. Four out of five of those surveyed thought robots can handle most things better than a human manager.

“AI is redefining not only the relationship between worker and manager, but also the role of a manager in an AI-driven workplace,” Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace, said in a statement. “Managers will remain relevant in future if they focus on being human and using their soft skills, while leaving the technical skills and routine tasks to robots.”

The study polled 8,370 employees, managers and human resources professionals in 10 countries from July to August this year.

The survey findings come as AI technology starts to make a bigger impact in the workplace across the world. About half of all survey respondents said they used some form of AI technology in their everyday work, up from 32% last year.

Contrary to the common perception that people are fearful of robots in the workplace, two-thirds of survey respondents said they are optimistic and grateful about having a robot co-worker, and a quarter of respondents said their relationship with AI at work was “loving and gratifying”.

China has placed emerging technologies such as AI, the internet of things and robotics at the heart of its industrial upgrading plans, aiming to be one of the world’s strongest manufacturing powers by 2025. The world’s No 2 economy is already the biggest market for smartphones and cars, has the most number of internet users and will likely soon have the largest 5G mobile infrastructure.

In the field of robotics, the “Made in China 2025” industrial master plan envisions a tenfold expansion in the number of industrial robots in the country to 1.8 million units by 2025. Up to 70% of the robots used in China would be made in the country at that time, from half in 2020.

This article first appeared on the South China Morning Post.