- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

Artificial Intelligence Adoption: Wonderful, or Wonder Why?

Since the beginning of commercial insurance technology – roughly in the 1950s from my perspective – there have been long-view opportunists who seek intelligent technologies. These would imitate humans’ cognitive functions and, perhaps, would eventually allow people to focus more on high-level thinking, paired with cold beverages and palm fronds.

While we are much closer to theoretical nirvana now, the leisure activity has not kicked in yet (at least for myself and my cohort).

So what is the current status, and what’s still in flux?

What’s new

It is clear that we have high-end technologies (e.g., AI, ML) which are at work as we speak. Oliver Pickup discussed “Artificial intelligence [and] its progression into the mainstream” back in February 2018. It seems that there are a lot of tools, including machine learning, high-speed internet, secure cloud storage, mobility solutions, low-cost devices, etc.

Meanwhile, functionality has broken through the cell wall and is moving AI into the mainstream in a twist on a previous joke:

“Experts agree that 2018 is likely to be the year AI breaks into the mainstream. The joke that Machine Learning is like teenage sex – everyone talks about it, but very few actually have it – is outdated. “

The touch points are wide open. Randy Dean, chief business officer at Launchpad.AI, said:

Every industry is going to be affected; almost every enterprise problem is ripe for an AI-derived solution or improvement. In the same way that the internet rippled through the business community over the course of ten to fifteen years, and the mobile did the same, AI will take that same path.

Meanwhile, in Canada …

Alicja Grzadkowska, news editor at Insurance Business, focused on Canadian insurance organizations. Applications developers, start-ups, and large organizations have taken to Canada for AI. Just outside Toronto, Waterloo graduates have moved into technology areas since the 1990s. From the beginning (at least what I saw), AI was key to the applications.

Alicja quotes Stephen Applebaum, managing partner of Insurance Solutions Group, who notes:

Canadian insurance companies are actually leading the charge in utilizing AI-driven technology and advanced analytics …

Because of the higher penetration of brokers in the insurance ecosystem in Canada versus the US or other parts of the world, that does change the adoption and use of artificial intelligence solutions because brokers, by definition, are the closest of all the market segments

Moreover, insurance carriers – including Aviva Canada, The Co-operators, and Crawford & Company – are utilizing the innovative AI track.

But all is not perfect

A year and a bit after discussing the value of AI, Pickup is seeing some challenges: “While Canada competes for a leading position in the AI race, it may be failing to consider the wider societal impacts these technologies may have on its population.”

More specifically, in asking whether Canada is “Falling Behind When it Comes to Ethical AI,” Pickup advises:

The algorithms on which AI systems run can be guilty of bias and discrimination and may aggravate existing racial and gender-based inequalities. MIT scholar Joy Buolamwini demonstrated that facial recognition systems had higher margins of error for women of colour than light-skinned men, standing at 34.7 percent as opposed to 0.8 percent.

Nicolas Vermeys, assistant director at the Cyberjustice Laboratory in Montreal, notes that algorithms tend to be “created with good intentions, but questions have surfaced over algorithmic bias” in a variety of contexts, including credit reporting, social, etc.

Discussing more challenges – such as the possibility that reliance upon machines, even for simple or menial tasks, will result in skill atrophy among human operators – Vermys summarizes: “We’re going to try to figure out how these artificial intelligence solutions should be used, while not affecting the quality of service [that] lawyers are giving today and will be able to give in 5 to 10 years.” (Emphasis added.)


I am not an expert, but I doubt we will put these products and technologies away under lock and key. I suspect there will be other, less controversial opportunities.

I am still optimistic. What about you?