Are AI Training Platforms The Sweatshops of Today?

With globalization came sweatshops.  Amazon's Mechanical Turk & similar platforms, which use human click labor to do real tasks for dirt cheap, are referred to as a natural extension to globalization in the article below.  Requestors submit tasks such as categorization, data entry, picture tagging, and other types of repetitive tasks that go to human workers known as Turkers.  These data points are used to train artificial intelligence, by giving them millions of similar repetitive tasks they develop the ability to do them much more efficiently than humans.  

Inside Amazon's clickworker platform: How half a million people are being paid pennies to train AI

Here are some excerpts from throughout I found to tell an interesting story..

"Milland has seen unqualified people—those with a low number of completed tasks, low approval ratings, false accounts, or suspensions—all earn a Master's Level."

But then they use their rankings to attach more importance to their results?

"Chris Bishop, laboratory director for Microsoft Research Cambridge, said that UHRS gives Microsoft "a little bit more flexibility" over third-party platforms such as AMT, saying the firm is using AI to automatically identify strengths and weakness in crowdworkers, such as relative levels of expertise, which in turn helps Microsoft decide whether to attach more or less importance to different workers' results."

These types of tasks have been around, in other forms

"...these sorts of microtasks date back more than two decades, said Gray, when work revolved around trying to improve spelling and grammar checking in word processors like Microsoft Word.  The wider history of click working and microtasks goes back to the rise of online retailers during the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s and early 2000s."

Amazon is has extremely hands off and doesn't communicate with Requestors or Turkers

"I am utterly baffled by the choices they are making," said Little, "and the number one choice they are making a mistake in is a lack of communication. Why do they want to be so hands off? It can't because of the risk of a lawsuit, because their terms of service clearly state 'ANo class action lawsuits.'"

And this will save humans for harder cases..

CrowdFlower, recently launched a machine learning platform to automate certain tasks that previously would have been carried out by manual workers, leaving human workers to "focus on the harder cases and help the [machine learning] models learn" .This approach results in significant amounts of manual work being automated, but the more optimistic forecasts predict that, while on a job-by-job level the human's share of the work is reduced, overall employment opportunities won't fall, due to increased demand for these joint AI-human services.

But what about our low skilled work?  I'd say our economy needs it..


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