The relationship between humans and machinery is increasingly tricky. We may soon pass the point of
singularity, in which robot intelligence
surpasses that of people. It won’t take
much – my old computer is in;nitely
smarter than most people I meet.
Some fear the rise of the machines
will signify the demise of mankind.
Many of those most alarmed hold
Professor Noel Sharkey, a
cybernetics expert and co-director
of the Foundation for Responsible
Robotics, says that arti;cial intelligence
platforms designed to assess insurance
eligibility are likely to discriminate
against women and non-whites.
Algorithms designed by beastly
chaps that drive AI software are “not
transparent,” Sharkey has concluded.
In an unrelated story, he has come
to believe that the Pope is Catholic.
Only the wholesale employment
of women in the ;eld of robotics will
enable insurers to set their premiums
fairly, Sharkey says.
With women accounting for fewer
than 10 percent of those holding IT
degrees in the UK, and Silicon Valley
awash with testosterone, it will be ages
before insurers are no longer held
responsible for all of society’s ills.
All is not well in other districts of
the machine world.
An attorney named Chris Sevier has
married his laptop in a New Mexico
ceremony. (What kind of ceremony,
one does not know.) On one level, his
behavior may not be as deranged as it
;rst sounds. After all, most of us spend
more time with our computers than
with our loved ones.
Computers might have all the
attributes one looks for a in a life
partner. They’re always there when
you need them, and don’t often answer
back. They largely do what they’re told.
They are knowledgeable, cheap to run,
quiet to operate, entitled to nothing
in a divorce, and — crucially — may
be turned off on demand, rather than
following some appalling gaffe on my
Sevier is a troublemaker. He has
demanded that a baker make him and
his blushing computer a wedding cake.
After that the story has to do with
“the 2015 Obergefell ruling” on same-sex activities, and we don’t want to go
One trusts that the baker has suitable
insurance coverage. If not, look out. It
will be insurance’s fault. It always is.
Dominated by men for 300 years,
the industry has only recently opened its
doors to women, just in time for people
to be replaced by robots — a bitter blow
to the distaff community.
To discover that, alongside their male
counterparts, they might no longer be
needed in the marriage department
would be the ;nal straw. Rage against
the machine, indeed.
Perhaps Sevier’s computer will
become part of a zombie botnet and run
off with a Russian who hasn’t bathed in
a year. I doubt Sevier has insurance to
cover that sort of thing, so in the end
it will all be insurance’s fault, and the
world will return to what passes these
days for normality. &
ROGER CROMBIE is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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BY ROGER CROMBIE