This is a story straight from sci-fi movies and novels. A future has arrived in which human workers are being replaced by machines. It’s now a reality for one Japanese insurance company where more than thirty workers are out of a job thanks to a new artificial intelligence system. It is claimed that this new system is able to calculate any payouts that are due to its policyholders.
It is believed by Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance that by implementing this new system that productivity will increase by up to 30%. They also believe that their investment will be returned in two years and that they will save about 140m Yen (AU$1.6 million) a year after their 200m Yen (AU$2.3 million) AI system is completely installed which they say is later this month. To maintain the system they claim will only cost about 15m Yen a year which is about AU$176,000.
The 34 employees will not be too happy about this move or the calculated savings to the company as their jobs will be made redundant by the end of March.
According to the tech firm, the system is based on IBM’s Watson Explorer and it possesses what they call cognitive technology that can think like humans. What this means is that it can interpret and analyse your data, which includes audio, video, images and unstructured text.
Medical certificates by the thousands will be able to be read by this technology. It can factor in a lot of variables like medical histories of policyholders, their hospital stays, any surgical procedures they have had and then calculate their payouts. Even though this new AI system will reduce the amount of time needed to calculate these payouts by Fukoku Mutual (reportedly totaled 132,000 during the current financial year) it will still have to be approved by a human member of staff.
Japan is an ideal testing ground for such new technology because of its shrinking and aging population. They also love robot technology which has ben widely reported by the Nomura Research Institute that says by 2035, nearly half the jobs in Japan could be performed by robots.
The countries politics is not immune to AI either. On a trial basis next month, the economy, trade and industry ministry will use an AI system to assist its civil servants in drafting ministers answers during their cabinet meetings and any parliamentary sessions. It is hoped that it will release some of the long hours that are spent by these bureaucrats in preparing written answers for the ministers.
It is hoped that is an answer is asked, the AI system will provide these civil servants will all the relevant data they need and list any relevant arguing points from answers on past questions.
The march of AI’s on Japan hasn’t been entirely glitch free. Last year, a team of researchers gave up on their efforts to created a robot that was intelligent enough to pass an entrance exam to none other than one of Tokyo’s most prestigious universities, the Tokyo University.
Noriko Arai, who is a professor at the National Institute of Informatics, summed up the reason for this failure, “AI is not good at answering the type of questions that require an ability to grasp meanings across a broad spectrum”.
The day that artificial intelligence is smart enough to pass an entrance exam is the day we all should be worried about our future. In the meantime, for the laid off workers at Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, this knowledge holds little comfort.