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In this photo distributed by Feature Photo Service for IBM: IBM Watson is going to Japan via IBM's new alliance with Japanese telecommunication giant SoftBank, on Tuesday, February 10, 2015. Pictured at IBM Research - Tokyo is IBM Researcher Risa Nishiyama with SoftBank's Pepper robot using Watson in a demonstration environment. (Feature Photo Service for IBM)

A Japanese insurance company is replacing some white collar workers with robots


If you want to get a glimpse of what the future of work will be like, look no further than Japan where artificial intelligence (AI) testing is paving the way for an entirely new kind of workforce.

An insurance company in the country has announced plans to replace over 30 white collar workers with an AI system modeled after IBM Watson, Japan’s The Mainichi reports.

While talk about AI typically involves driverless cars or factory jobs, the conversation has recently shifted toward knowledge-based work. 

In this photo taken Sunday, July 12, 2015, chidlren try to talk with SoftBank Corp.'s robot Pepper at a store in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

In Japan, there are already a number of companies, including SoftBank, which has also teamed up with IBM, who are looking to AI to help revamp the workplace. Per The Mianichi, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is the fourth insurance company to test AI.

There will be job cuts

Tech innovations have already meant job cuts in some sectors, like food and retail, and analysts see many industries as fair game. "In a short answer, inevitably yes, there is going to be replacement," Profitero EMEA Director of Strategy and Insights Andrew Pearl recently told Circa with regards to Amazon's new checkout and cashier-free grocery concept, Amazon Go.

Beyond Amazon, companies like McDonald's are testing the waters of automation with self-serve kiosks.

At Fukoku Mutual, they are using AI to automate research and data gathering of hospital records to speed up the insurance payout process. AI will replace 34 Fukoku Mutual insurance claims workers and the company expects the AI will help improve productivity by 30%.

While computers won't kill all jobs, knowledge-based ones do seem to be poised for disruption, especially those that can be carried out via data analysis. But as Quartz puts it, "whether that means augmenting workers’ ability to be productive, or replacing them entirely remains to be seen."

Could a robot do your job?


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