An insurance company in Japan announced that it will lay off more than 30 employees and replace them with an artificial intelligence system.
The technology will be based on IBM's Watson Explorer, which is described as having "cognitive technology that can think like a human," reported the Guardian. Japan's Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance said the new system will take over from its human counterparts by calculating policy payouts. The company said it hopes the AI will be 30% more productive and aims to see investment costs recouped within two years.
Fukoku Mutual Life said it expects the $1.73 million smart system—which costs around $129,000 each year to maintain—to save the company about $1.21 million each year. The 34 staff members will officially be replaced in March.
According to the Guardian, other Japanese insurers like Dai-ichi and Japan Post Insurance have also implemented AI in payout calculations, or are planning to introduce the technology.
According to an MIT Technology Review report, "Last year was huge for advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning. But 2017 may well deliver even more." The report notes that China, in particular, will become a major player in the field of AI. It said: "The country’s tech industry is shifting away from copying Western companies, and it has identified AI and machine learning as the next big areas of innovation."