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Rise of the machines

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What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around for a couple of decades. Dr John McCarthy first coined the term in reference to the field of computer science concerned with developing systems with a rational capacity. In other words: systems that can apply human thought and rationality to any given scenario.

Gaining momentum

In recent years, there’s been a surge of interest in AI – Google notably acquired DeepMind, while Microsoft has been investing heavily in machine learning (the science of getting a machine to “learn”, as well as understand, reason and respond).

Ultimately, such interest makes sense because people are realising the potential of building systems that aren’t based solely on logical operators (such as ‘if, else and while’ statements), but rather intelligence systems that are empowered to make decisions in a variety of contexts – without human intervention.

Intelligent systems are able to act on the behalf of humans by undertaking tasks that have been traditionally exclusive to people, such as recognising patterns in large sets of data. But perhaps the most interesting use for AI is machine learning

Imagine a system that could intelligently communicate with our customers, or assist call centre staff to identify account patterns and uncover suspicious behaviour.

What if you could program a machine to help you learn, strategise and make sense of complex problems? It could literally revolutionise the business world – including the insurance industry.

Imagine a system that could intelligently communicate with our customers, or assist call centre staff to identify account patterns and uncover suspicious behaviour.

The possibilities are endless.

Artificial intelligence could transform the speed and efficiency in which businesses can intervene in criminal activity, saving millions of pounds in insurance fraud every year.

Plus, if driverless cars are set to become a reality within the next five years or so, it could change the landscape of insurance dramatically – could accidents and liability arguments really become a thing of the past?

What if we introduced an intelligent virtual agent to handle the creation of insurance quotes and deliver them to individual customers?

There are so many nuances involved in dealing with customer needs, but it’s entirely feasible that such applications could exist in the not-too-distant future with the emergence of machine learning, natural language processing (NLP) and big data to help empower businesses and transform the way that they have traditionally worked. 

The end of call centres?

Not quite. There’s no doubt that AI has taken a huge leap forward in recent years, and the scope of what we could do with such sophisticated technology is incredible. But as with all technology, there are limitations.  

AI limitations

The two most glaring constraints when applying AI to general business are lack of resource and finding people with the relevant skillsets to build such complex systems.

Artificial intelligence is a deeply theoretical field that often requires an eclectic combination of expertise in computer science, mathematics, engineering and, in some cases, psychology and economics.

There are ways around these issues – businesses could build on top of already stable systems, for example. But as the field evolves, we would need to build more bespoke systems in the same way that traditional software development has evolved.

Various approaches will become more clearly defined over time, but at this point it’s not entirely clear how to effectively develop such systems without significant investment in highly skilled AI professionals. 

But there’s no doubt about it, the future of artificial intelligence in all businesses – including insurance – is full of exciting possibilities.