Inside Track

Living in the Future

Living in the Future

By Eric Harding

As a child of the ’80s, it’s easy to look around and get dispirited at the state of our consumer tech landscape. Sure, we have Siri and Alexa, but where are the robots making our dinner? Driving assistance has come a long way, but we’re still years (decades?) from truly autonomous vehicles. And don’t get me started on the ignominy of self-checkout at grocery stores. I do the work, slower, for the same cost as full-service checkout—this is progress?

In short, the life of tech-enabled luxury we were promised by shiny-eyed visionaries has not come to pass.

But it would be a mistake to look around at what we don’t have and conclude that we’re in some sort of Luddite paradise. Far from it, in fact. Siri and Alexa, those aforementioned digital assistants, can answer just about any question we throw at them (and play some good tunes to boot). The slender rectangles we carry around keep us connected to all our loved ones—and all the world’s information—and they’ve become so ubiquitous that we take that instant access for granted. And we’re living in a golden age of content, with thousands of hours of hi-def entertainment for all members of the family—movies, TV shows, video games—available for instant download.

Indeed, only the staunchest purist would deny that we are living in the future promised to us so many years ago—it just looks a little different than we might have imagined it.

This issue’s features touch on this theme—living in the future—in different ways.

In our cover feature, “Crowdsourcing Medicine,” author Andrea Huckaba Rome investigates what happens when more people—even those without medical training—lend a hand with diagnosis and other aspects of medicine. Because we are living in the future, doctors who are stumped by a tricky case can reach out online to invite others into the room to aid with figuring out the malady, often with surprisingly good results. But this nascent field brings a host of questions that actuaries might want to wrestle with sooner rather than later.

In “To the Summit,” author Dan Wiedrich compares mountaineering with actuarial science. As you’ll read in this airy memoir, one of the skills that both pursuits share is planning and preparation—a way of living in the future with your feet firmly on solid ground. Read on for more.

Underwriting 2.0” looks at how Big Data and other elements of data science can be used to help support risk assessment. Life insurers are using data science to get granular with applicants. With artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning techniques coming to the fore, the underwriting world of tomorrow is here today.

Finally, we’re pleased to bring you a piece of original fiction from Leo Apilash. “Russell” considers an unlikely relationship set in the present—and an uncertain future.

Thank you for reading this issue of Contingencies. I trust your present day is everything you hoped for.   

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