Insurance, like any other industry, wants to thrive and survive—and that means continuing to employ lots of people to do meaningful work. Yet one has to wonder—in an age of increasing automation—how much longer we’ll need lots of people to do that work.

One of the fears I hear voiced by some in this industry is that once our systems have become sophisticated enough to compute the variables on any and all risks, insurance will become a “commodity,” which is to say, a static product whose only changes are made up front in nanoseconds by very sophisticated computers. Some already believe that auto insurance, for example, has gone a long way toward being a commodity, and some have tried to set up online services that will automatically do the underwriting and crank out the premiums based on customer input.

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