Could insurance be provided by artificial intelligence?

By Ernest Falkner III

Zillion Dollar Thinking


"Siri" is a voice-activated app that works with the iPhone 4S and iOS 5 to allow users to take action on their iPhone by voice commands. Siri can understand not just basic words common to human speech; Siri can both speak back to the user and take dictation, transcribing voice to text and more.

Ads claim that "Siri lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls and more. Just ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it."

(Consider how many people rely daily on horoscopes to guide their decisions. It is not a stretch to imagine Siri taking on that role.)

"Talk to Siri as you would to a person. Say something like, 'Tell my wife I’m running late' or 'Remind me to call the vet.' Siri not only understands what you say; it’s smart enough to know what you mean. So when you ask, 'Any good burger joints around here?' Siri will reply, 'I found a number of burger restaurants near you.' Then you can say, 'Hmm. How about tacos?' Siri remembers that you just asked about restaurants, so it will look for Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood. And Siri is proactive, so it will question you until it finds what you’re searching for."

Apple (among other developers) has a vision of a future in which the disembodied voice of a Siri is your constant companion. (Take a look at this Wired article.)

Looks like a duck, talks like a duck — is this artificial intelligence (AI) or not?

Now let's apply this to the world of insurance.

"Siri, how much insurance do I need? What kind? What product? What company?"

The real question is not the question; it is who is providing the answer. Instead of Siri, it could be a similar voice (behind an entity) that leads us to their captive offerings, products and services. (Or, it could be another Siri that emerges from an Amazon-type organization that drives the direction.)

Point is, very subtly, you may find yourselves (and your clients/customers) being influenced and guided by a form of artificial intelligence, fuzzy logic and data mining (among other technologies). This may sound like an imaginary conspiracy theory, but so did a personal computer only a few years ago. We can easily get conflicted over this probable development, but our individual influence may well determine the future outcome of this threat.

Nothing wrong with search and research, but artificial anything is just that: artificial. This is a scary proposition, considering the potential to manipulate markets. When we were kids, we needed our parents, guardians and teachers to explain that the answers we got from the magic eight ball were random and artificial. We have come a long way, but the same logic applies today:
    1. Be aware that AI is developing rapidly. Look at daily app growth.

    2. The insurance industry is a ripe target.

    3. Most insurance companies will not respond proactively.

    4. This, again, has to do with how decisions are being made and offers you the opportunity to challenge.

    5. Now is the time to demonstrate your system of decisioning that includes real and not artificial influences and to introduce your brand with facts and logic.
But then, maybe all this will go away? As always, you decide.

See also:

Video killed the seminar star

Will financial advisors be replaced by the Internet?

Retail life insurance: Are Walmart and Costco really a threat to agents?