Watson Wins, But Weakness Revealed: A Lesson for Insurance Agents?

18thFeb. × ’11

GEICO is the Insurance Watson

It isn’t news to most of us that IBM’s super computer, Watson, recently matched wits (or more accurately, databases) on Jeopardy with two of the worthiest opponents the human race could offer.  The results of that game are neatly summarized in a recent Mashable post:

IBM supercomputer Watson has defeated two of Jeopardy‘s greatest players, and it wasn’t even close.

But some weaknesses in Watson’s otherwise impressive capabilities were revealed.  So you can look at the Jeopardy spectacle in two different ways:  1) Singularity is right around the corner so suck up to the machines to make sure you get a good slice of the pie in our cyborg dominated future; or 2) We need to change the rules of the game so the humans win, not the machines.

An article in CNN Tech provides some further insights into those weaknesses:

At the end of the day, Watson is not really conceptualizing a clue’s meaning. It simply number-crunches its way to the right answers by comparing vast amounts of data. This is why it dominates the “fill in the blank” knowledge clues (Aeolic, spoken in ancient times, was a dialect of this), but falters on some more “common sense” deductions.

So, to all you humans who like to be humiliated by wires and circuits:  go ahead and play jeopardy with computers (and the future *is* written).  Or perhaps you would rather compete with computers in a game where the questions were framed by common sense clues instead of straight-on facts and data?  I would.  I like winning.

So what does all this have to do with a blog about insurance marketing?  It has to do with an observation I make from time-to-time, that is, I see insurance agents trying to match the value propositions of insurance marketing equivalents of Watson – GEICO and Esurance.  While it may be true that your agency can also save new customers 15% or more, and you do it just as frequently as GEICO, competing on that value proposition is a losing proposition.  GEICO is really good at it, and while they promote the 15% or more savings, they simultaneously devalue relationships (what are those anyway?), one-stop convenience and other value propositions that most local insurance agents could be cultivating.  GEICO is Watson.  Don’t compete with them in a game dictated by rules that work to Watson’s advantage.  Come up with your own rules, and beat the borg.

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