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Robot Vacuums And Other Gadgets Strip Life Of Meaning, Experts Warn

Autonomous products may rob us of the sense of satisfaction and purpose derived from manual labor and everyday chores, study finds.

Household gadgets such as robot vacuum cleaners rob us of life’s small but meaningful experiences, experts claim.

Researchers found that devices made to take over boring household chores actually make us feel less fulfilled.

The team from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and Columbia Business School said that people feel a sense of satisfaction when they complete household chores.

And when they use autonomous products, a source of meaning in life is stripped away.

Whether it is cleaning homes, mowing lawns or even baking bread, we are increasingly delegating these tasks to machines.

These gadgets operate without human oversight allowing us to simply flick a switch and kick back while they do the work.

Roborock robotic vacuum cleaner in home station in a smart home in Lafayette, California, March 29, 2023. The researchers found that manual labour is an important source of meaning in life to these people and that everyday chores may not make us happy but they add meaning to our lives. PHOTO BY SMITH COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES 

This new research, published in the Journal of Marketing, shows that, despite unquestionable benefits such as gains in efficiency and convenience, some consumers are hesitant to buy these products.

They have been dubbed “meaning of manual labour” (MML) consumers.

The researchers found that manual labour is an important source of meaning in life to these people and that everyday chores may not make us happy but they add meaning to our lives.

Study author Dr. Emanuel de Bellis, from St Gallen said: “Our studies show that ‘meaning of manual labour’ causes consumers to reject autonomous products.

 

“For example, these consumers have a more negative attitude toward autonomous products and are also more prone to believe in the disadvantages of autonomous products relative to their advantages.”

Vice dean at Columbia Business School, Professor Gita Venkataramani Johar added: ““We suggest that companies highlight so-called alternative sources of meaning in life, which should reduce consumers’ need to derive meaning specifically from manual tasks.

“Highlighting other sources of meaning, such as through family or hobbies, at the time of the adoption decision should counteract the negative effect on autonomous product adoption.”

One example given is the German home appliance company Vorwerk’s promotion of its cooking machine Thermomix with “more family time”.

Instead of promoting the quality of task completion i.e., cooking a delicious meal, the company emphasizes that consumers can spend time on other, arguably more meaningful, activities.

Johar added: “Making alternative sources of meaning in life salient can serve as a remedy to increase autonomous product adoption among these consumers.

“One such strategy is to emphasize that the time gained through the use of autonomous products can be spent on meaningful activities, thus offsetting the detrimental effects of meaning of manual labor on autonomous product adoption.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

Edited by Saba Fatima and Newsdesk Manager

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