Japanese insurer to replace humans with AI

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Insurance company to cut 34 employees as smart system takes over their work

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9 January 2017 | 0

Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Company, a 94-year-old insurance company based in Tokyo, is getting ready to replace 34 human workers with an IBM Watson artificial intelligence-based system, ABC News in Australia reported.

A spokesperson for Fukoku Life could not be reached and IBM did not respond to a request for comment, but ABC News said the employees will lose their jobs by the end of March, when the Watson system takes over handling insurance payouts by culling hospital records, patient medical histories and injury data.

The final payments will still be handled by human workers.

The report also stated that the company expects to increase productivity by 30%, while saving $1.65 million on employee salaries. Fukoku Life will spend $2.36 million to install the system and about $177,000 in annual maintenance costs, meaning the new system should pay for itself in less than two years, ABC News said.

The report is likely to continue to validate fears that robots and AI are putting people out of work.

With AI systems making steady advancements that enable them to increasingly learn on their own, make decisions and understand human behaviour, companies are widely expected to use the technology to sidestep human workers and get work done without needing to pay salaries and provide health care or vacation time.

A year ago, the World Economic Forum, a Geneva-based organization focused on analyzing and improving the state of the world, reported that the next tech revolution, which includes AI and robotics, could mean the loss of 7 million jobs over the next few years.

The forum also stated that at the same time, 2 million jobs would be created in the fields of computer science, engineering and maths. It’s also expected that technology will create new jobs that will replace the ones that smart systems are taking.

Human workers may also increasingly work alongside smart systems. For example, a worker might have a smart assistant that finds information needed for a project before the worker realises he or she needs it.

However, the concerns today are over jobs that are lost because of AI.

“It’s certainly something workers who work with large volumes of data will be concerned about,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “There’s no question that AI systems, like IBM’s Watson, can analyse and interpret data faster and more accurately than people. We are in the digital era, where the currency of business is speed, and AIs can make decisions faster than people with massive amounts of data.”

IDG News Service

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