MIT Researched 16,625 Papers on Artificial Intelligence — Here’s Why Insurers Should Care

MIT researchers conclude that machine learning has the potential to create great efficiencies; that goes for its use in insurance too.
By: | February 6, 2019 • 3 min read

The Gist: To learn where artificial intelligence (AI) is headed in the future, MIT Technology Review took a look into the past. Researchers analyzed 16,625 papers from 1993 to 2018 to learn how the technology, and the research behind it, has evolved.


MIT reveals that AI research trends popularize then fade away over the years — and new paradigm shifts come at approximately every decade. Sometimes they’re brand-new technologies. Sometimes existing theories are resurrected. In any case, we’re due for yet another shift in AI research in the 2020s.

What does AI look like now? AI went through a major seachange recently, going from knowledge-based systems to machine learning. Knowledge-based systems are algorithms based on rules that can give machines common sense and human knowledge. With machine learning, systems teach themselves the rules.

As researchers studied knowledge-based systems they found a major problem: “there were simply too many rules that needed to be encoded for a system to do anything useful. This jacked up costs and significantly slowed ongoing efforts,” the report said. “Machine learning became an answer to that problem. Instead of requiring people to manually encode hundreds of thousands of rules, this approach programs machines to extract those rules automatically from a pile of data. Just like that, the field abandoned knowledge-based systems and turned to refining machine learning.”

What’s Next for AI?: That’s the billion-dollar question. MIT stopped short of predicting what the next decade of research will look like. Perhaps an older technique will regain favor or an entirely new technology will emerge.

Pedro Domingos, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington and author of The Master Algorithm offered his thoughts:

“The 2020s should be no different,” he said, “meaning the era of deep learning may soon come to an end. But characteristically, the research community has competing ideas about what will come next—whether an older technique will regain favor or whether the field will create an entirely new paradigm.”

What’s Does AI Have to do With Insurance?: Plenty. AI will fundamentally change the way we process claims, assess damage and underwrite risks in the near future. In an article titled Here’s How Artificial Intelligence Is Poised to Transform Insurance Underwriting for the Better, we took our own deep dive into AI. We found AI will soon deliver more accurate risk assessments, superior customer experiences and serious cost benefits for insurers.


“Imagine workers’ comp underwriters quickly analyzing thousands of pages of medical bills and health records to predict injury risks,” the article said. “Imagine commercial property underwriters seamlessly incorporating external data from city governments, regulatory agencies and news sources to get a clearer picture of a risk. Imagine a shipping company that’s charged more for premiums when sailing into bad weather or hostile territory.”

Further Reading (and Viewing): AI’s reach will be far and wide, affecting almost every part of the risk management landscape. One of the coolest applications is its use by first responders. Futurism explains how police, fire and others are using AI to deliver critical aid in the wake of natural disasters.

We also recommend this fascinating Ted Talk from Domingos explaining the next 100 years of your life. He offered this enlightening quote: “a decade’s worth of progress now is roughly equivalent to the entire 18th Century, or to the entire first millennium AD.” and said that the possibility of living forever is closer than you think.

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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.


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.


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]