Good morning, dear readers, today we are going to talk about the secret of AI.

Since ChatGPT stormed the world last fall, people have been discussing the impact artificial intelligence and other new automated technologies will have on the US job market.

AI STEALS JOBS FROM HUMANS?

The instinctive reaction to these videos is to say that robots are coming for our jobs, but while artificial intelligence and other types of automation have progressed, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily eliminating jobs. Instead, new technology is simply changing the way we work and what types of work exist.

Automation technology has introduced a fleet of secret workers behind screens, machines and smiling faces of robots. Robots and chatbots aren’t replacing humans, they’re just keeping people out of sight and mind. And while separating the customer from the workers who serve them can be good for companies, there is growing evidence that it’s a bad deal for employees.

THE HUMAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN

Amid the fear of robots, people often do not see the degree to which machines still require human workers to function. Get customer service: For years, companies have been trying to reduce costs by replacing human phone calls with automated chat-based customer service robots. But instead of replacing customer service operators, many of these text-based tools still rely on human backups in complex situations and to make customers feel like they’re talking to a real person.

Let’s take food delivery robots: although they are presented as completely autonomous, the reality is that they often have remote backup drivers. Tiny Mile, which runs a service in Toronto called Geoffrey, relies on drivers in the Philippines, while Kiwi robots, which are used on some US university campuses, are are known to use workers in Colombia who earn less than €2 an hour to help complete deliveries. Companies claim that remote drivers take over only when robots are not able to navigate a situation, but given the tendency of these robots to get stuck and become obstacles for people, it is unclear how often this happens.

Many of the leading companies in the development of autonomous vehicles, which one day threatened to replace a series of driving jobs, also rely on a fleet of workers.

Obviously, in the United States there are well-paid engineers who help develop the software and tools used to map and drive the car, but this is not the complete picture. Autonomous driving technology relies on poorly paid workers around the world to label the thousands of data inputs captured by car sensors.

Without that labeling, the computer would not be able to identify what sensors are detecting, which allows systems to slowly learn and make decisions about how to navigate along the way. For example, data labelling should help cars to distinguish whether an obstacle is a child or a road cone even if it does not always work as expected. A survey of MIT last April found that autonomous driving companies, Including Tesla, they took advantage of the collapse of the Venezuelan economy by having the country’s workers label autonomous driving data for an average of just over 90 cents an hour.

Last year, Tesla laid off 200 US-based workers who directly employed to do this labeling, suggesting that it was instead automating most of those activities.

It’s not just autonomous driving technology. A recent survey found that OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, relies on Kenyan workers paid less than $2 an hour to display content on a number of disturbing topics, including “abuse”, to try to make the tool as toxic as possible. This follows an earlier report on Facebook that used the same subcontractor in Kenya for its own content moderation.

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