Insurance covers everything from taste buds to test rockets (check out How Insurance Built the World You Know and see how AXA Corporate Solutions covers the latter), with new types of policies popping up every day, including recent coverage insuring Taylor Swift’s legs for $40 million.
So where is the final frontier? Where can underwriters turn to for extreme product innovation, to boldly go where no other underwriter has gone before?
When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin were prepping their mission to walk on the moon in 1969, they faced a very down-to-earth problem: life insurance. Back then, a policy covering the unknowns of the Apollo 11 mission simply didn’t exist (NASA began covering astronauts with standard cover in the 80s), so they came up with their own “policy”. Their autographs.
“They’d been signing autographs since the day they were announced as astronauts,” said Robert Pearlman, a space historian and collector, “they knew… there was a market for such things”.
Covers (envelopes signed and postmarked on an important date) were particularly valuable. So during pre-mission quarantine, the crew passed the time signing hundreds of envelopes. If the astronauts lost their lives on the mission, their special Apollo 11 Insurance Covers would provide for their wives and children, for years to come. They literally wrote, and underwrote, their own insurance policies.
Today, astronauts are largely covered under private insurance policies, as space travel enters a new era, led by private initiatives. Thus, astronauts and space travel pose increasing opportunities for any insurance company, as space travel grows and space tourism takes off.
Autographs just won’t cut it anymore.
However, a take-away from the Apollo 11 story is that insurance premiums and payouts may not necessarily need to be valued solely in terms of liquid currency in the future; they could turn out to be physical objects, intellectual capital or, as in this case, signatures.
Who knows what shape insurance will take in the future?
Sure there’s homeowner’s insurance, personal property insurance, valuables insurance and so on, but currently these policies can’t actually insure the incalculable sentimental value of the items they cover, i.e. via replacing actual lost, stolen or destroyed items.
But could they in the future?
What if insurance companies could physically recreate your most prized possessions in the case of a claim?
How much would you pay to replace a scratched music album you used to listen to over and over in your teens, or that long-lost letter you got from your first love (including the feel of the pink onion paper and exact pattern of the glitter)?
Is it even possible to finely reproduce existing objects and make them come to life, with all their time-worn flaws intact?
According to a team of researchers from the University of Technology in Delft, Netherlands, the answer is yes. They’ve managed to reproduce the physically unreproducible: Fine art masterpieces, in 3D, right down to the varying thickness and type of paint and materials, including the picture frame.
And they’re not the only ones. Fujifilm and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam recently partnered to create the Relievo Collection, a 3D-printed series of actual Van Goghs, 3D-scanned from the originals, priced in tens of thousands of dollars rather than tens of millions.
If 3D printing can recreate a Van Gogh today, your first grade report card shouldn’t be a problem in the future. Maybe one day, a sort of “object reproduction service” could be offered alongside regular personal property insurance. Just think, we’d never have to worry again about losing our most prized possessions, as they’d be immediately replaced as part of a claim. Science-fiction today, but maybe science tomorrow.
What about bringing back entire spaces you’ve lost from your past, such as your childhood home, your first apartment, your kindergarten classroom?
Wouldn’t it be great to see or spend time in these spaces again, thanks to some kind of “place reproduction insurance”? If you lose access to these spaces (because of damage, or the property changing hands, etc.), a policy could be tailored to offer you a virtual reproduction to peruse at your leisure. Or, via 3D-printing, actually provide you with a life-size replica you can chose to keep, perhaps inside a room of your present home. Is this kind of scanning far-fetched?
Well, now there’s an app for that (and some pretty awesome hardware too, check it out).
Pretty soon, insurance could have your entire past covered.
Just make sure you capture it first.
But what about insuring against the greatest of all risks?
Search for “relationship insurance” or “love insurance” and you’ll see a lot of good-natured humor on the idea. It’s not that people haven’t thought about it, or written about it, it’s just no one’s ever gone the extra mile to create this kind of coverage. Or have they?
In reality, this kind of coverage has been right under our noses the whole time. And we know a lot about it (and it’s effects) from popular culture, movies and, some of us, from experience.
It’s called the prenuptial agreement, or prenup.
Though not usually framed as an insurance policy, in the end it’s remarkably similar: there is a clear “risk” (relationship failure), a kind of “premium” is paid (the initial discussion and the recurring presence of a prenup is a clear “cost” for most relationships as it detracts from romantic feeling), and there is a “claim” (in the case of a separation or divorce) for a “payout” (getting to keep monies from one’s partner).
In addition, prenups are, like insurance policies, customizable in terms of “risk” and “payout schedules”, as partners choose variable “payouts” based on the length of the relationship, including, in some cases, a “sunset” clause (where the prenup is no longer valid after a certain number of years).
Insurance companies haven’t gotten in the game yet but perhaps the time has come. What if coverage was bundled together with other types of insurance relevant to a relationship (for example, life insurance or home insurance). In this case, the “premium” (negative effects of bringing up a prenuptial agreement) would decrease significantly and the relationship would be insured like any other asset. Far-fetched? Maybe. But at least it would be a collaborative way to mitigate the risks of an institution that, in some parts of the world, is experiencing a failure rate of over 60%.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), there’s still no way to insure against a broken heart.