from the are-you-next? dept
Stories about robots and their impressive capabilities are starting to crop up fairly often these days. It's no secret that they will soon be capable of replacing humans for many manual jobs, as they already do in some manufacturing industries. But so far, artificial intelligence (AI) has been viewed as more of a blue-sky area -- fascinating and exciting, but still the realm of research rather than the real world. Although AI certainly raises important questions for the future, not least philosophical and ethical ones, its impact on job security has not been at the forefront of concerns. But a recent decision by a Japanese insurance company to replace several dozen of its employees with an AI system suggests maybe it should be:
Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance believes [its move] will increase productivity by 30% and see a return on its investment in less than two years. The firm said it would save about 140m yen (£1m) a year after the 200m yen (£1.4m) AI system is installed this month. Maintaining it will cost about 15m yen (£100k) a year.
The Guardian article quoted above gives a few more details:
The system is based on IBM's Watson Explorer, which, according to the tech firm, possesses "cognitive technology that can think like a human”, enabling it to “analyse and interpret all of your data, including unstructured text, images, audio and video".
The technology will be able to read tens of thousands of medical certificates and factor in the length of hospital stays, medical histories and any surgical procedures before calculating payouts
It's noteworthy that IBM's Watson Explorer is being used by the insurance company in this way barely a year after the head of the Watson project stated flatly that his system wouldn't be replacing humans any time soon. That's a reflection of just how fast this sector is moving. Now would be a good time to check whether your job might be next.