A Japanese company is making 34 employees redundant in order to replace them with IBM’s Watson Explorer AI. Human workers at Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance are set to be replaced by an artificial intelligence that can calculate payouts to policyholders.
After the 200m yen (£1.4m) AI system is installed this month, the company believes productivity will be increased by 30 per cent and that it would save about 140m yen (£1m) a year.
The company also said it believes it will get a return on its investment in under two years.
The 34 employees will be made redundant by the end of March.
The artificial intelligence system is based on IBM’s Watson Explorer, which, according to the tech firm, has “cognitive technology that can think like a human” and can analyse and interpret data, “including unstructured text, images, audio and video”.
This means it can analyse all manner of medical data before calculating payouts.
AI is being trialled in a number of sectors in Japan, even in politics, where next month civil servants will be assisted by artificial intelligence.
And the march of AI is not expected to stop anytime soon; a 2015 report by the Nomura Research Institute has stated almost half of all jobs in Japan could be replaced by robots by 2035.
One sector which appears safe for now is academia; at the end of 2016 a team of researchers gave up making a robot which could pass the entrance exam for Tokyo University.
Noriko Arai, a professor at the National Institute of Informatics, told Kyodo news agency: “AI is not good at answering the type of questions that require an ability to grasp meanings across a broad spectrum”.
The spread of AI isn’t limited to Japan; the NHS is trialing artificial intelligence as an alternative to the 111 helpline, and bosses have said AI is the next frontier for online retail.
Prof Steven Hawking warned in October last year of the “disruption” AI could bring to our economy.
He said that the technology promised to bring great benefits, such as eradicating disease and poverty, but “will also bring dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons or new ways for the few to oppress the many”.
“It will bring great disruption to our economy, and in the future AI could develop a will of its own that is in conflict with ours,” he said.