Japanese Company Replaces Office Workers With Artificial Intelligence

Published By: The Guardian, 1/5/2017

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Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, an insurance firm in Japan, is replacing 34 workers with an AI system that will calculate payouts to policyholders.  They are making these changes in an attempt to increase productivity within the firm.  The article mentions other new uses of AI systems in Japan intended to increase productivity, including in government and politics.

Extended Discussion Questions

  • Thirty-four workers at Fukoku will be made redundant because of the AI system, and the Nomura Research Institute says that by 2035 nearly half of Japanese jobs could be performed by robots.
    • What could this mean for Japanese workers? For Japanese families?
    • In what situations might replacing human workers with AIs be a good investment?
    • What could be some drawbacks of replacing human workers with AIs?
  • Can you think of ways that AIs could be prominent in the economy without replacing human workers?
  • The article quotes IBM as saying that the AI has “cognitive technology that can think like a human”.
    • What do you think they mean by that? What does it mean to “think like a human”?
    • What are some advantages of designing a machine to think like a human? Are there any disadvantages?
  • Besides displacing workers, are there other ways the economy could be changed by a shift to AIs? Prompt: What’s unique about how humans do business?

Relating This Story to the CSP Curriculum Framework

Global Impact Learning Objectives:

  • LO 7.3.1 Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing.
  • LO 7.4.1 Explain the connections between computing and real-world contexts, including economic, social, and cultural contexts.

Global Impact Essential Knowledge:

  • EK 7.3.1A Innovations enabled by computing raise legal and ethical concerns.

Banner Image: “Network Visualization – Violet – Offset Crop”, derivative work by ICSI. New license: CC BY-SA 4.0. Based on “Social Network Analysis Visualization” by Martin Grandjean. Original license: CC BY-SA 3.0

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