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Column: Roger's Soapbox

Pardon, No Disruption

By: | February 20, 2018 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

The Internet doubles as the Great Disruptor. Businesses and practices that have plugged along, getting the job done in any number of fields, will soon be memories overtaken by the frantic rush to embrace the shiny new future.

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CDs have been outmoded by downloads. Passports, we are told, will be replaced by data held on mobile phones. Robots will henceforth provide the appalling customer service we’re used to from humans.

Not every development is necessarily beneficial. In the rush to find electronic ways to do things, important matters are being overlooked. Privacy, for example.

You want a fair and considered legal system with due process and ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as basic tenets? Sorry. No longer available, thanks to the Digital Inquisition.

How about trustworthy media with editorial standards? Laughably old-fashioned. The mantra now is online or be damned. The truth has set itself free.

You want a bank account? In the UK, an early adopter, banks are closing branches nationwide, leaving many without banking facilities other than online. No computer? Too bad.

Insurance considers itself especially threatened as robots replace humans in the front office, having already taken charge of systems and claims denials at the back end.

Not every development is necessarily beneficial. In the rush to find electronic ways to do things, important matters are being overlooked. Privacy, for example.

All may not be lost. Take motor insurance. Tech companies are testing driverless vehicles, and not too many people have died as a result. One might conclude conclude that, in the near future, no vehicle will be driven by humans, nor will an automobile ever malfunction. Thus motor insurance must go the way of hunting and gathering insurance.

It won’t.

Think for a second. Divest your mind of the hype. To allow driverless vehicles to function properly, sensors must be installed on every road, bridge, overpass, underpass, tree, building, traffic light, pedestrian and other man-made or natural structure.

Cities encircled by a ring road, such as London (the M25) or Paris (the Peripherique), might eventually be wired in this way. In rural conditions, however, there are no buildings or fixtures on which to install the necessary equipment.

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Some Scandinavian countries are doing away with cash, with Sweden leading the way. My bank manager hasn’t carried cash for years, he tells me, not even other people’s. The cash and specie insurance crowd must be doomed, no?

No.

If the currency of currency ends, only those permitted to have bank accounts will survive. Since a chunk of every country’s population would not qualify for a bank account, the end of cash, and cash insurance, would be a death sentence for significant numbers of people. It’s not going to happen.

The ‘gun murder insurance’ that Lloyd’s sells via the National Rifle Association won’t be obsolete any time soon. The U.S. has more guns than people. They’ll insist on shooting something, even if it’s only robots or family members.

Much as we might wish for technology to replace everything, just for laughs, old habits die hard, as do sensible ones. Not everything can be replaced by an algorithm — and thank God for that. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]