Computer says “go”

This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

Your personality predicts a great deal about your prospects in life, including something that would have seemed barely comprehensible to members of most previous generations: how likely you are to be replaced by a computer at work.

When you were a teenager, compared with other people at your school, were you more or less (1) mature, (2) extraverted, (3) intelligent; and interested in (4) the arts, (5) science, (6) leadership, (7) sports, (8) working with tools and the outdoors, (9) people, (10) business.

For items 1-7, score 1 point for every “more”, and 0 for every “less”.

For items 8-10, score 1 point for every “less” and 1 point for every “more”

Add up your points to find out – on a scale of 0-10 – how likely you are, on average, to have ended up in a job that will be taken over by a computer. Obviously, this is a fairly rough-and-ready measure, and we are only talking about averages here; but a new study conducted at the University of Illinois found that all of these things were uniquely associated with the likelihood of ending up in a job that is earmarked for likely computerization (around 50% of all jobs in the USA). Furthermore, these correlations held even after controlling for social and economic status. While many are fairly unsurprising, the last three run in the opposite direction to what we might have expected. Presumably the experts believe that tools and outdoor equipment will be replaced with robots, while dealing with customers and making business decisions is best left to Artificial Intelligence.

 A fully referenced version of this article is available at Order Are You Smarter Than A Chimpanzee? by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £12.99) for £11.04 at

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