We’ve all seen them. Sometimes dressed in silly costumes, jamming to a beat, or quietly waving while standing on a street corner out in the summer heat or the winter chill. They are sign wavers promoting a local retail business, and today even these jobs are being disrupted. Just last week, I passed a corner with a mannequin that was robotically animated to wave the store’s sign.

The interaction of powerful computing, big data, sensors, and artificial intelligence (AI) is creating powerful new capabilities. Leaders across industries are focusing on how to efficiently replace select functions with robotics and AI. The obvious one everyone talks about is the autonomous vehicle. These driverless cars and trucks may have a profound impact on the economy, but are just one aspect of how robotics and AI will be able to replace select functions and jobs.

In insurance and underwriting, jobs with defined processes, procedures, and actions, such as underwriting assistants and raters, will be the prime candidates for robotics and AI. Rather than move these jobs offshore as certain carriers have done in the past, the newest trend is to consider whether robotics or AI can supplement, enhance, or replace certain workers to improve efficiency.

The impact of AI and robotics in insurance doesn’t end with the workforce. We also need to consider the implications they will have on the industries we write and protect. For example:

  • Personal lines insurance is already worried about a significant hit to its market as driverless cars take off.
  • Commercial fleet insurance needs to consider the same possible impacts.
  • Farms already have tractors driving themselves; these are becoming more automated.
  • Even the simple sign waver whose job was replaced by that mannequin. That is one less individual for worker’s compensation.

Robotics and artificial intelligence present a unique opportunity to drive efficiency and effectiveness in underwriting and insurance. But we also need to start thinking about what they mean for our customers, and how the nature of risk is going to change with these new technologies.

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