Alipay Puts Financial Muscle Behind AI Development

July 17, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

Remember just a few days ago, when we were talking about how artificial intelligence (AI) was changing the face of mobile payments? How it meant new options, new potential pitfalls, and so on? It turns out that that wasn’t just a vague platitude, as new reports suggest that Alipay parent company Alibaba is one of the largest private investors in AI development around, and is already looking to the concept to solve a lot of problems.

More specifically, the funding seems to have been largely routed through Ant Financial, where AI is being regarded as a “key driver” for business. It represents the means to address problems on several fronts, from loans to insurance and beyond.

As noted by Ant Financial vice president and chief data scientist Qi Yuan, “At Ant Financial, we say AI solves problems. In finance, the main problems are credit and risk management.” Since Ant Financial recently launched its own AI-powered image recognition system geared toward vehicle insurance claims investigators—and since exterior damage claims represent almost two out of three (60 percent) of the 45 million claims filed annually—it’s easy to see why the company’s backing it so enthusiastically.

Better yet, the research has already borne fruit; where formerly, investigations took six minutes on average, that’s now down to about six seconds in a growing number of cases. That’s improved reaction time, lowered costs, and, down side, it may ultimately cost people jobs.

If the AI gets to the point where it can reliably turn a six minute job into a six second job, then that means one person would be able to do the job of 60 previously. That’s just a planning number; it assumes all cases require equal time. Still, even if the number is only partially accurate, we could be looking at one to do the job of 30, or even 10, and that still means enormous layoffs.

It’s the perpetual downside of AI; once it’s good enough to cut a human’s workload that far, what’s the point of keeping the human? Or at least anywhere near the number; if one can do the job of 60, who needs the other 59? Still, we won’t slow this area with so many investing in it, and Ant Financial may be signing all our pink slips soon.