Insurance Firm From Japan Replaces 34 Employees With AI

Replacing human workers with robots is not something from the future. Recently, we saw that Foxconn, one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies, will replace almost all of its factory workers with robots called Foxbots. Robots are a part of manufacturing industry for many years and a plan to replace every factory worker with robots isn’t so strange these days. But, what if an insurance company decides do replace its office workers with an AI system? Are humans becoming redundant not only in the manufacturing industry but also in other industry branches where workers perform more complex tasks than just assembling an iPhone or a random laptop? It seems that one Japanese insurance company thinks that replacing human workforce with an AI – IBM’s Watson Explorer AI, to be more precise – could increase productivity.

Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is ditching more than 30 workers, replacing them with artificial intelligence. The company believes the move will increase productivity by thirty percent, and that a return of investment will be visible in less than two years. Watson Explorer AI is capable of calculating payouts to policyholders. The same task can be done by humans, but Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance believes that an AI system could do it better. And the company could be on a right track. Firstly, an AI doesn’t have a limit regarding its working hours, it can do its job 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Further, the only investment for the company is the purchase, you don’t have to pay the AI (except for the IBM’s tech support), you don’t have to give it free days during the holidays, you don’t have to worry about it coming late to the job, there’s no risk that an AI could receive a better offer from a competitor company and leave.

34 employees in total will be let go by March, and the AI system is already installed. The system replacing human workers is based on IBM’s Watson Explorer, which possesses “cognitive technology that can think like a human” and is capable to “analyze and interpret all of your data, including unstructured text, images, audio and video,” according to IBM. The AI will read thousands of medical certificates, calculate the length of hospital stays, and factor any surgical procedures and medical histories before calculating payouts. The AI won’t be completely independent, though, since insurance payouts won’t be approved until a (human) member of the staff checks them out.

Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance isn’t the first Japanese company to use an AI, Dai-Ichi Life Insurance also uses Watson-based AI system to calculate payments, although it didn’t lay off any human workers. Also, the economy, trade and industry ministry will conduct a sort of experiment by introducing an AI in order to help civil servants to draft answers for ministers during meeting and sessions in the parliament. If the trial run proves successful, other government agencies could also adopt AI systems.

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