Science and Technology

Inside the AI Factory

The conventional wisdom on artificial intelligence is that the technology will eliminate boring office drudgery. Depending on your outlook, this will either liberate millions of humans to pursue more engaging work or lead to massive unemployment. In our new cover story, published in collaboration with The Verge, Josh Dzieza presents a third possibility: that AI won’t replace work as much as make it weirder, more alienating, and potentially way more tedious. Josh talked to more than two dozen data annotators who help train AI to correctly categorize and respond to elements of reality. Some of these jobs seem awfully dull — teaching a bot through trial and error in thousands of decisions about what is wearable clothing and what isn’t. Some are just downright dystopian — thousands of people spending eight hours a day talking to bots and evaluating whether each interaction is helpful or harmful. The more we rely on AI, the more these will become the jobs of the near future, and training AI is so labor intensive that this work will likely be with us for a good long time.

— Genevieve Smith, features director, New York

AI Is a Lot of Work As the technology becomes ubiquitous, a vast tasker underclass is emerging — and not going anywhere.

Photo: Hugo Yu

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