Japanese insurer announces it will replace office workers with artificial intelligence



  • More and more companies are experimenting with AI as a way to automate away jobs, and as the human toll continues to increase this is just the beginning


Fukoku Mutual Life, a Japanese insurance company with a turnover of $6.8 Billion in 2016, announced yesterday that they were going to be making 34 employees, who today calculate payouts to policyholders, redundant and replacing them with an artificial intelligence (AI) system – specifically IBM’s Watson Explorer product.


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The new £1.4 million IBM Watson system was installed last month and the company believes that it’s productivity will increase by 30 per cent and that it will save about £1 million a year , the company also went on to say that it expects a return on its investment in under two years. However, while that might be good news for the company, again, in the wake of the news that Foxconn are automating away over 1.2 million jobs and Bridgewater Associates, who coincidentally also hired ex IBM Watson developers to automate it’s entire management team, you have to question what the impact of all of these redundancies will have on humanity and society.

The 34 employees will be made redundant by the end of March.

IBM’s Watson Explorer is billed by IBM as “cognitive technology that can think like a human” and that “can analyse and interpret data, including unstructured text, images, audio and video,” which in this case basically means it’s able to analyse all manner of medical data before calculating the right insurance payouts.

AI, it appears, is beginning to have its day in the sun and next month Japan’s government are going to start rolling out new AI embedded services that will assist their civil servants with their duties – something which might unnerve them all – especially given the fact that Deloitte just published a report suggesting that a similar initiative in the UK could help to automate away the jobs of over 860,000 civil servants. And the march of AI is not expected to stop anytime soon, and it’s only going to accelerate as it’s capabilities improve.

One sector which appears safe for now though is academia, at the end of 2016 a team of researchers in Japan gave up making a robot which could pass the entrance exam for Tokyo University.


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“AI is not good at answering the type of questions that require an ability to grasp meanings across a broad spectrum,” said Noriko Arai, a professor at the National Institute of Informatics. But the spread of AI isn’t limited to Japan; the UK’s National Health Service is trialling AI as an alternative to their 111 helpline.

Last year Prof Steven Hawking said that creating AI was the greatest event of our civilisation, and while he talked at length about the benefits he also warned about the damage it could have on humanity and the economy.

“It will bring great disruption to our economy, and in the future AI could develop a will of its own that is in conflict with ours,” he said.

As for it’s impact on employment however, in the past three days we’ve seen announcements about the automation of over 1.3 million jobs, and that doesn’t include the impact of other technology developments on jobs, such as autonomous vehicles – and over all, even though governments are trialling Universal Basic Income (UBI) schemes, as companies continue to invest in AI I would strongly suggest you think about your own situation. Feel free to holler me.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute is described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers.” Among other things Matthew keeps busy helping the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers ideate the next five generations of smartphones, and what comes beyond, the world’s largest chip makers envision the next twenty years of intelligent machines, and is helping Europe’s largest energy companies re-invent energy generation, transmission and retail.

Recognised in 2013, 2015 and 2016 as one of Europe’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an award winning author, entrepreneur and international speaker who has been featured on the BBC, Discovery and other outlets. Working hand in hand with accelerators, investors, governments, multi-nationals and regulators around the world Matthew helps them envision the future and helps them transform their industries, products and go to market strategies, and shows them how the combination of new, democratised, powerful emerging technologies are helping accelerate cultural, industrial and societal change.

Matthew’s clients include Accenture, Bain & Co, Bank of America, Blackrock, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Du Pont, E&Y, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, HPE, Huawei, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, Lloyds Banking Group, McKinsey & Co, PWC, Qualcomm, Rolls Royce, SAP, Samsung, Schroeder’s, Sequoia Capital, Sopra Steria, UBS, the UK’s HM Treasury, the USAF and many others.


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