Chinese Company Names AI-Powered Debt Collector Employee of the Year

Chinese real-estate giant Vanke Group recently sparked controversy after naming its advanced AI-powered debt collector its employee of the year for 2021.

Looking at a picture of Cui Xiaopan, Vanke Group’s employee of 2021, you’d think she was a woman in her 20s with a very determined look on her face, but in reality, she isn’t even human. The AI-generated photo that the Chinese company uses to depict its star debt collector is just an attempt of attaching an eye-pleasing face to what is otherwise a cold-and calculated artificial intelligence. However, when it comes to performance, the AI debt-collector managed to surpass her human colleagues by quite a large margin, registering a 91.44% success rate in collecting overdue payments.

“Under the support of systematic algorithms, she quickly learned the methods of humans to discover problems in work procedures and data and has displayed her skills hundreds of thousands of times more than humans,” Yu Liang, chairman of the board of directors of Vanke, wrote in a social media post in December of last year.

Cui Xiaopan, an AI employee developed by an in-house team using toolkits from Xiaoice, an advanced AI system owned by Microsoft China, only started working at the company’s accounting department in February of last year, but quickly learned the ropes and managed to use the information to solve problems that human debt collectors struggled with.

The AI-powered debt collector apparently did such a good job in her 10 months with Vanke Group that, out of 140,000 employees, it was named employee of the year in 2021. That’s both impressive and controversial, and the company’s announcement did in fact get mixed reactions online. Some people praised the AI technology developed, but others said that Vanke did the wrong thing by naming a computer program ’employee of the month’, as human workers should be cherished more.

Chinese AI projects have been getting a lot of attention in recent years, from the ultra-realistic news anchors that blew everyone’s minds a few years back, to the country’s first AI university student.