Column: Roger's Soapbox

Opinion: Artificial Intelligence Insurance Platforms are Discriminatory. Really?

Are AI platforms that determine insurance eligibility inherently discriminatory?
By: | October 3, 2017

The relationship between humans and machinery is increasingly tricky. We may son pass the point of singularity, in which robot intelligence surpasses that of people. It won’t take much – my old computer is infinitely smarter than most people I meet.

Some fear the rise of the machines will signify the demise of mankind. Many of those most alarmed hold insurance responsible.

Professor Noel Sharkey, a cybernetics expert and co-director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, says that artificial intelligence platforms designed to assess insurance eligibility are likely to discriminate against women and non-whites.

Algorithms designed by beastly chaps that drive AI software are “not transparent,” Sharkey has concluded.

In an unrelated story, he has come to believe that the Pope is Catholic.

Only the wholesale employment of women in the field of robotics will enable insurers to set their premiums fairly, Sharkey says.

Some fear the rise of the machines will signify the demise of mankind. Many of those most alarmed hold insurance responsible.

With women accounting for fewer than 10 percent of those holding IT degrees in the UK, and Silicon Valley awash with testosterone, it will be ages before insurers are no longer held responsible for all of society’s ills.

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All is not well in other districts of the machine world.

An attorney named Chris Sevier has married his laptop in a New Mexico ceremony. (What kind of ceremony, one does not know.) On one level, his behavior may not be as deranged as it first sounds. After all, most of us spend more time with our computers than with our loved ones.

Computers might have all the attributes one looks for a in a life partner. They’re always there when you need them, and don’t often answer back. They largely do what they’re told. They are knowledgeable, cheap to run, quiet to operate, entitled to nothing in a divorce, and — crucially — may be turned off on demand, rather than following some appalling gaffe on my part.

Sevier is a troublemaker. He has demanded that a baker make him and his blushing computer a wedding cake.

After that the story has to do with “the 2015 Obergefell ruling” on same-sex activities, and we don’t want to go there.

One trusts that the baker has suitable insurance coverage. If not, look out. It will be insurance’s fault. It always is.

Dominated by men for 300 years, the industry has only recently opened its doors to women, just in time for people to be replaced by robots — a bitter blow to the distaff community.

To discover that, alongside their male counterparts, they might no longer be needed in the marriage department would be the final straw. Rage against the machine, indeed.

Perhaps Sevier’s computer will become part of a zombie botnet and run off with a Russian who hasn’t bathed in a year. I doubt Sevier has insurance to cover that sort of thing, so in the end it will all be insurance’s fault, and the world will return to what passes these days for normality. &

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

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