A company in Japan is laying off 34 workers and replacing them with an Artificial Intelligence system. The insurance company invested in the AI that will calculate payouts for its policyholders.
The company, Fukoku Mutual Life, estimates productivity will boost 30 percent. The AI system cost Fukoku Mutual Life 200m yen (roughly 1.4 million pounds). They expect to save 140m yen (1 million pounds) each year. Thus, they'll earn a return on their investment in roughly two years, even with maintenance expenses.
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For Fukoku Mutual, this means the AI can process tens of thousands of client medical certificates. It can compute given certain variables, like the lengths of hospital stays, prior surgeries and noted preexisting conditions.
However, a human staff member will approve each payout for the year, even with the AI significantly reducing the time of calculations, according to reports.
Despite all this saving, the 34 employees who will more than likely be let go at the end of March don't appreciate the move.
The Guardian reported the system will take after IBM's Watson Explorer. IBM has previously said it has the technology "that can think like a human," as millions witnessed during Watson's stint on the quiz show Jeopardy!. IBM also noted the Watson system can "analyze and interpret all of your data, including unstructured text, images, audio and video".
Japan doesn't shy away from AI innovation. In spring 2016, Microsoft Japan created Rinna, an AI with the personality of a high school girl. In October, Rinna made headlines when she had an apparent depressive meltdown and posted her 'feelings' online. A 2015 study by the Nomura Research Institute estimated that nearly half the jobs in Japan could be performed by robots in less than 20 years.
There's even been recent talks of robots smart enough to make it into prestigious Tokyo University. However, some acknowledge AI's shortfalls.
“AI is not good at answering the type of questions that require an ability to grasp meanings across a broad spectrum,” Noriko Arai, a professor at the National Institute of Informatics, told Kyodo news agency.