AI Sharecroppers

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Steve LeVine and Kaveh Waddell on AI Sharecroppers:

"Invisible to most of us, an underclass of labor has evolved behind the artificial intelligence revolution — thousands of low-wage workers in the U.S. and across the globe who painstakingly inventory millions of pieces of data and images, and give power to AI programs. Critics call them the new "sharecroppers."

Why it matters: These workers — people who affix labels to data so computers can understand what it is — are starting to attract the interest of social scientists and other experts. They say labelers may at least in part explain the nagging conundrum of American income inequality — and perhaps how to fix it.

Background: We think that AI is all-knowing, but actually it's only partly so. When it comes to the AI behind driverless technology, for instance, sensors can take fantastically granular pictures of streets and hazards of all types, and AI can be fed with the experience of every type of driving situation. But autonomous technology companies still need humans to inform the AI what it's looking at — to circle things like trees, stop signs and crosswalks." (