So first up – required reading: George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. If you haven’t read it already, do yourself a literary favor.
If you have “no time”, here is a synopsis:
In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith wrestles with oppression in Oceania, a place where the Party scrutinizes human actions with ever-watchful Big Brother. Defying a ban on individuality, Winston dares to express his thoughts in a diary and pursues a relationship with Julia. These criminal deeds bring Winston into the eye of the opposition, who then must reform the nonconformist. George Orwell’s 1984 introduced the watchwords for life without freedom: BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.
Everything is known, everything is controlled. Ideal for the benign propagation of say.. Life Insurance, right?
Lets take an objective look.
Personal data is everywhere these days
And the scary fact is that we seem to surrender it ourselves without much needed effort.
Just gave birth? Gotta Insta that for sure. Place a #proudparent tag for good measure.
Changing a new job? Photos of the desk and smiling colleagues go up on Facebook.
And its not only the momentous events that we are putting up for the world to see. A quick scan of my own social media feeds revealed the following posts:
Completion of a 5k run
Traipsing across Spain for a holiday
Baking of a cake
Painting of fingernails (Yes I have bimbotic friends, unfortunately)
Commentary of political opinion
Food review of a particular sushi restaurant
Cute kitten videos (Ok I enjoyed this one)
And the list goes on, anything from trivial to tremendous. And that is only the data that we give up knowingly.
What about the data that we give up or provide on a compulsory basis? Government records on housing, salary (via CPF), bank loans, credit card spending, health records (from clinics and hospitals) are some sources that come to mind.
As we begin to transit to a cashless society, we trade convenience for our data – what we buy, consume, and how much we spend. Our locations are pinpointed and our preferences are logged. If that doesn’t scare you just a little, it probably should.
Also, some food for thought: In the early days of email, providers used to tout storage limits as a way of enticing sign ups. These days, the concept of an email box limit is almost antiquated. Store as much as you want, folks. No one is going to ever access that information. Right?
It is safe to say that the world knows more about us than we do about ourselves.
That world is becoming exceedingly good at using our personal data
Advertising is the de facto use that springs to mind. Search for airline tickets to Bali and you will be bombarded with Google ads for cheap flights for the next two weeks.
That isn’t even the most impressive bit. Data scientists and statisticians have come up with algorithms to analyze the things we purchase, to better anticipate what we would be needing (read: buying) next.
Read about how a shopping mall in the US figured out a teen was pregnant – even before her father did.
And if that didn’t draw out your “I’m officially impressed” face, then maybe this will.
In China, there are already pilot programmes set in place to establish a nationwide social credit system – where the state knows about every single one of your deeds (good or otherwise) and gives you a social credit score.
If you happen to be one of those that don’t toe the party line and have been a naughty boy, the state gives you a low social credit score and punishes you accordingly.
-restrict your travel options
-bar you from taking bank loans
-kill your job prospects
-slow your internet speed (the scariest punishment by far. imagine watching netflix on dodgy wifi)
So we’ve established 3 things so far.
1) Our personal data is out there. Really out there, for anyone determined to use it
2) There are people or parties that are determined to use it.
3) They can use it in ways we can’t even dream of.
How does this relate to Life Insurance?
Personal data, as it so happens, is what Insurers crave
More accurately, heath related data.
Hence the springing up of “Health and Wellness” apps by insurers. Record your health data away! Quit smoking. Exercise regularly. Eat healthy food. Guess who is the ideal insurance customer now?
Side note: Some people may then point to blockchain as a savior. A decentralized ledger, they call it. Autonomy for the masses, and anonymity for all. In a most polite manner, I call this hogwash. The transaction records are more transparent than ever. They might just be more tamper proof.
For all its hype, blockchain is just another way of managing data. We’ve been doing fine without it for millennia. Kinda like the spreadsheet. Useful, but simply an enabler.
Back to the discussion on hand. Just who owns the most amount of data best suited for Life Insurance?
The benevolent Zheng Hu (government) of course.
Hospitals and Clinics. Birth records (Of you and your children). Salary and income (via CPF). Marital status (via ROM). Housing records. Every key aspect of coverage requirement is known and kept.
Which leads us to ..
Life Insurance, Big Brother style?
With all that data and the increasing proficiency to use it, there could be a day where it is the government itself that undertakes the entirety of Life Insurance administration.
They have the data, they have the means, and they have the motivation.
(NB: Motivation includes monetary and social stability. The money part is self explanatory since Insurance is big business. The stability part entails financial stability of those that have befallen tough times and unfortunate circumstances like serious illness or premature death of a bread winner. They need a safety net (aka Insurance) to ensure these people are able to take care of themselves and one day contribute to society, instead of being a burden)
Everyone would be properly covered at a fraction of the cost of today’s policies (No need for commissions, and lower administrative cost)
That cover would be automatically adjusted according to your life events. 10/10 Convenience.
Do you even privacy, bro?
Do you even privacy, sis?
How now, brown cow?
Well…. nothing, really. We cant hold progress back any more than we can hold back the tide. (the sea type and also the erm, biological type. you know what I mean)
Fundamentally, we are not opposed to technology and the benefits that it provides. History sure doesn’t favor the Luddites. But the purpose of this article is to highlight the need for extra consideration before (i.e. think things through) implementation, lest there be serious unintended consequences.
Robert Oppenheimer might be the very first to support this. (Some people know him as the father of the atomic bomb)
So what do you think? Would you be in favor of a society where all your insurance needs are taken care of automatically, or would you still want to keep a measure of privacy intact? Let us know in the comments below.
www.ClearlySurely.com aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.
Right now we are thinking of a vacation to the Caribbean. But having second thoughts about searching for it, lest we get bombarded by advertisements on cheap flights and top notch diving tours. Also not posting about on FB – till we have a sick photo to share!