Risk Insider: Tony Boobier

The Future of AI Is Now

By: | October 20, 2016 • 3 min read
Tony Boobier is an experienced independent consultant focusing on insurance analytics. An international speaker, commentator and published author, he lies awake at night thinking about the convergence of insurance and technology. He can be reached at [email protected]

It’s been an interesting couple of months. In between helping to set up a new IoT insurance center in Munich whilst being caught up in corporate restructuring, I’ve also been catching up on my reading.

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There’s a lot in the press about “artificial intelligence” and “cognitive analytics” — in effect the whole issue of machine learning. I’m thinking a lot about how this might not only affect insurance business models but also individual professions within the insurance industry.

Along the way, I also suffered my own insurance claim — I’ll share details in a moment or two — and saw how AI and the “real world of claims” seem to come together.

In my research I came across a very interesting academic paper called “Future Progress in Artificial Intelligence: A Survey of Expert Opinion,” which I would commend to you. The paper, originating at the Future of Humanity Institute of the University of Oxford, points to concerns about the impact of AI on humanity and how it will bring “significant risks.”

If we look at 10 years [from now], then insurance in an AI environment will happen within our immediate working lives.

It makes the point that these risks to humanity have either been ignored in the past or considered to be science fiction.

In my presentations I often refer to the movie “Minority Report,” which is based on the Philip K. Dick science fiction story about predicting thought crime, and I argue that these capabilities are already with us — even if flying through the ether is not yet currently available.

Cognitive analytics are already piloted in health care and wealth management. But the long and short of it is that some major insurers are already thinking hard about cognitive analytics and AI in the context of the Internet of Things.

So when will all this happen in reality?

The experts say that there is a one-in-two chance that high level AI “will be developed around 2040-2050, rising to a nine-in-10 chance by 2075.” They also say incidentally that there is a one-in-three chance that this will be “bad for humanity,” but let’s save the ethical questions for a different day.

These are average figures, but let’s drill down a little more deeply.

Of the group of 123 eminent scientists surveyed, 11 percent say that we will understand the architecture of the brain sufficiently to create machine simulation of human thought within 10 years. Of this, 5 percent suggested that machines will be able to simulate learning and every other aspect of human learning within 10 years.

They also predicted machines will have the specific levels of maturity worthy of a third grade school exam by 2030, the Turing test (in which an observer cannot tell the difference between a conversation with a human or a machine) by 2040, and Nobel-level research by 2045.

So, let’s roll the insurance clock forward either 10 or 30 years depending on how bullish you feel. If we look at 10 years, then insurance in an AI environment will happen within our immediate working lives.

Even if you have retired, you will still be affected as it will impact the way you buy cover and the way your claims are serviced.

If we look at a longer timescale of 30 years, then the grads and interns coming into the industry today will be using this before they finish their careers.

For what it’s worth, I think it will happen sooner rather than later.

But, I promised to tell you about my own claim.

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My delayed flight back from Munich to London was much delayed, and I was greeted at about 1 a.m. with a flat battery in my car. I called the auto breakdown insurer who promised a repair guy within 30 minutes who actually turned up in 20 minutes.

Not only did he bring a professional solution in the middle of the night, but he also brought with him a smile, which made all the difference to a tired guy like me. Great service, great attitude.

At the end of the day, isn’t it still going to be about the basics, especially at the claim’s “moment of truth?” I really hope that the AI that we eventually learn to live with in insurance will recognize the importance of service and the very great power of customer advocacy.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]