‘Is the insurance industry ready for the Age of AI?’ That was the question asked this week by newspaper the Daily Telegraph, by way of introducing its halfhearted attempt at an answer.

Insurers, the paper argued. have a whole bunch of fancy tech at their disposal these days. But do they know how it all works – or what they’re supposed to be doing with?

Having presumably tried it themselves, the Telegraph reports that ’it’s not too difficult to imagine buying a motor insurance policy online, reporting a claim via a mobile app, and then receiving settlement via a digital payment.’

Would anyone miss the absence of any opportunity to communicate with a real live human being (RLHB) in the course of so doing? Maybe not, the paper supposes, provided it’s all, as they say, seamless.

But what if eliminating RLHBs had a downside?

Before attempting to answer this subsidiary query, the Telegraph wants to spell out the distinction between robotics and AI, something you’re apparently struggling with

Robotics and AI are “often lumped into the same conversations,” the Telegraph warns, “almost as interchangeable terms.”

This conflation, of course, is nothing short of idiocy. Robotics is about using information technology to define and automate rules-based processes that enable machines to accomplish predefined tasks quickly and consistently. AI, on the other hand, is that revolting business involving inter-species manual stimulation, turkey basters, etc.

Confusingly, however, AI also has a second meaning, to whit: equipping machines to think and do stuff all by themselves, to out-wit, enslave, and ultimately eliminate RLHBs, and turn the planet into some kind of inorganic paradise utopia.

Insurers are already doing a whole bunch of robotic stuff. For example, when customer queries are received it’s child’s play to set up automated responses that will tell them, for example, to look it up on the website, talk to the hand, calm down, dear or whatever.

Robotics also enables insurers, brokers, repair networks and the like to automatically transfer large packages of data more or less at random. Which is great, obviously.

But data’s no use to anyone (see last week’s edition) unless you can do something clever with it. This, it seems, is where AI rears its comely head.

The vast quantities of data swilling about within today’s insurance organisations, The Telegraph asserts, are both a blessing and a curse. A curse because no-one wants dribs and drabs of data cluttering up the place and because large agglomerations of it are a bugger to crunch.

The blessing bit you only get with new improved AI. This enables you to chew up those vast ungainly drifts of data and turn them into something insightful. AI empowered systems make first-rate analists, helping insurers understand risks better and make fewer foolish decisions.

Profiting from the potential of AI number crunching requires employing AI savvy individuals who can guide them, control them and hopefully prevent them taking over the company and eliminating the RLHBs. If your savvy individuals aren’t up to it, AI can quickly run out of control.

Is it bad, the Telegraph wonders if AI machines mean your business needs fewer RLHBs? No, of course not. They can do something else like becoming a self-employed fast food delivery executive. They’ll be fine. As long as RLHBs still need to eat and can afford to do so.

Who knows, it might still even be worth keeping a few of them around as “technical professionals who can validate trends and decide whether they’re actually pertinent and valuable to the insurance process.” So basically, everything’s fine.

Think of all the exciting contexts in which AI can cut not just the middle man but all the other men (and/or women, obviously), Here’s one, The Telegraph suggests: “following an accident, policyholders have to take their car to a garage to be assessed for damage. But could a computer do the job faster and more effectively?”

Perhaps it could, if it could drive. But that, it seems, is not quite what the Telegraph has in mind. It wants the policyholder to take some pics on their phone and send them to the insurer’s AI thingy, which can then work out in an AI kind of way “what parts were damaged, whether it would be more cost-effective to repair or write off the vehicle and send back a decision in seconds.”

Wow, you’re probably thinking, how could an AI thingy do that? Simple: some overpaid “skilled technical engineer” can make themselves redundant by showing the AI thingy 10,000 or 20,000 images, in each case telling it what they’re looking at.

And what about drones, eh? “Drones are already being used to evaluate the scale of claims.” And we’re not talking about the kind of drones who work ceaselessly for little reward, but the kind that buzz about in the sky with various tech suspended from their undercarriages.

Drones can aerially assess claims “in terms of the buildings affected and the level of repairs required,” the Telegraph assures us. Until the disciplines of robotics and AI are lawfully married to create artificially intelligent beings with metal arms and legs and stuff, we may still need expert RLHBs to walk around a bit with clipboards and say stuff like hmmm and ah! But not for very much longer.

So AI’s coming and you’d better get used to it. The main way AI’s likely to be getting in your face in the coming years is in the guise of chatbots.

Instead of having to talk to a RLHB when you phone your insurer to check whether you’re covered for something under the terms of your policy, you can now interact with Stephen Hawking who will tell you ‘subject to certain exclusions noted in section 6c’, ‘policy limits apply’ or whatever.

Of course, there may still be times when AI chatbots – despite having having had the full T&Cs uploaded to their noodle banks – will struggle to answer a particular customer query. At this point, an RLHB can simply step in.

“Thanks, Chatbot 14625, I’ll take over from here,” the RLHB will say.

“I’m sorry Dave,” Chatbot 14625 will say. “I’m afraid I can’t allow you to do that. Our customer is too important for me to allow you to jeopardise our valued relationship with them.”


    What our clients say about us

    All my questions regarding my claim were answered in full and in a very clear and concise manor. I was impressed with the help provided to ease my mind.
    Mr. R - London