THE IDEA that artificial intelligence (AI) will replace humans in the workplace has been touted for some time now, with fears that everything from warehouse robots to self-driving trucks will put millions out of work.
A report by the World Economic Forum last year found that the rise of robotics, AI and other technologies will result in a global loss of five million jobs by 2020.
These claims gained a little more weight this week, with news from Japan that an insurance company there, called Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, is to replace 34 claims staff with IBM Watson Explorer.
This will mean customers making claims deal directly with the AI, rather than a real human. The upfront cost to the insurance company is not cheap, with an outlay of $1.7m to set up Watson and then a yearly running cost of $128,000.
However, this will lead to savings of over $1m a year on staff salaries, according to a report in local paper Mainichi, giving the company a return on investment in two years. This could well make other firms sit up and take notice of the financial benefits AI could offer.
The company said it has already used Watson to analyse customers' voices and complaints and understand different financial values assigned to different levels of injuries being claimed for by customers and that this gave it the confidence to move to a full deployment.
The move by the company to ditch human staff and bring in AI will no doubt alarm workers in similar roles in firms in other advanced nations, such as the UK and US, where companies may well be considering similar ideas. µ
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