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IBM's "Watson" competes on Jeopardy!.

As question answering (QA) systems like Watson mature, let’s consider how providing access to insurance knowledge in an automated fashion can change the insurance landscape. A key element of this is the fact that the world operates in an unstructured way. People have been trained over the past 50 years by the information systems we use to structure our data. We fill in blanks, color in the circle, use zip codes, routing numbers, and all the rest to get our computers to serve us better. Basically, this has worked and provided us with the wide spectrum of tools we use today.

However, the future is happening. Information technology has progressed and continues to challenge our assumptions about how it can work. Today unstructured information and data can be used by information systems to perform an increasing number of tasks. The insurance industry needs to keep a collective open mind about how these types of intelligent systems can and will do. Watson’s performance when playing Jeopardy! demonstrates a more general range of knowledge, but the natural-language (i.e., everyday language) aspect combined with a specific set of information like claims, underwriting, or products, will be game altering for carriers. 

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