These Prisoners Are Training AI

Article by Morgan Meaker: “…Around the world, millions of so-called “clickworkers” train artificial intelligence models, teaching machines the difference between pedestrians and palm trees, or what combination of words describe violence or sexual abuse. Usually these workers are stationed in the global south, where wages are cheap. OpenAI, for example, uses an outsourcing firm that employs clickworkers in Kenya, Uganda, and India. That arrangement works for American companies, operating in the world’s most widely spoken language, English. But there are not a lot of people in the global south who speak Finnish.

That’s why Metroc turned to prison labor. The company gets cheap, Finnish-speaking workers, while the prison system can offer inmates employment that, it says, prepares them for the digital world of work after their release. Using prisoners to train AI creates uneasy parallels with the kind of low-paid and sometimes exploitive labor that has often existed downstream in technology. But in Finland, the project has received widespread support.

“There’s this global idea of what data labor is. And then there’s what happens in Finland, which is very different if you look at it closely,” says Tuukka Lehtiniemi, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, who has been studying data labor in Finnish prisons.

For four months, Marmalade has lived here, in Hämeenlinna prison. The building is modern, with big windows. Colorful artwork tries to enforce a sense of cheeriness on otherwise empty corridors. If it wasn’t for the heavy gray security doors blocking every entry and exit, these rooms could easily belong to a particularly soulless school or university complex.

Finland might be famous for its open prisons—where inmates can work or study in nearby towns—but this is not one of them. Instead, Hämeenlinna is the country’s highest-security institution housing exclusively female inmates. Marmalade has been sentenced to six years. Under privacy rules set by the prison, WIRED is not able to publish Marmalade’s real name, exact age, or any other information that could be used to identify her. But in a country where prisoners serving life terms can apply to be released after 12 years, six years is a heavy sentence. And like the other 100 inmates who live here, she is not allowed to leave…(More)”.

Navigating the Jagged Technological Frontier: Field Experimental Evidence of the Effects of AI on Knowledge Worker Productivity and Quality

Paper by Fabrizio Dell’Acqua et al: “The public release of Large Language Models (LLMs) has sparked tremendous interest in how humans will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to accomplish a variety of tasks. In our study conducted with Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm, we examine the performance implications of AI on realistic, complex, and knowledge-intensive tasks. The pre-registered experiment involved 758 consultants comprising about 7% of the individual contributor-level consultants at the company. After establishing a performance baseline on a similar task, subjects were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: no AI access, GPT-4 AI access, or GPT-4 AI access with a prompt engineering overview. We suggest that the capabilities of AI create a “jagged technological frontier” where some tasks are easily done by AI, while others, though seemingly similar in difficulty level, are outside the current capability of AI. For each one of a set of 18 realistic consulting tasks within the frontier of AI capabilities, consultants using AI were significantly more productive (they completed 12.2% more tasks on average, and completed task 25.1% more quickly), and produced significantly higher quality results (more than 40% higher quality compared to a control group). Consultants across the skills distribution benefited significantly from having AI augmentation, with those below the average performance threshold increasing by 43% and those above increasing by 17% compared to their own scores. For a task selected to be outside the frontier, however, consultants using AI were 19 percentage points less likely to produce correct solutions compared to those without AI. Further, our analysis shows the emergence of two distinctive patterns of successful AI use by humans along a spectrum of human-AI integration. One set of consultants acted as “Centaurs,” like the mythical halfhorse/half-human creature, dividing and delegating their solution-creation activities to the AI or to themselves. Another set of consultants acted more like “Cyborgs,” completely integrating their task flow with the AI and continually interacting with the technology…(More)”.

Unleashing the metaverse for skills and workforce development

Article by Gemma Rodon, Marjorie Chinen, and Diego Angel-Urdinola: “The metaverse is revolutionizing skills and workforce development, reshaping learning in fields like auto-mechanics, health care, welding and various vocations. It offers future workers with invaluable, cost-effective, flexible, standardized and safe apprenticeship opportunities tailored for the demands of the global economy….Given its importance and potential, the World Bank’s EdTech team, with support from a Digital Development Partnership Grant, has recently completed a knowledge pack (KP) that provides evidence and case studies showcasing the advantages and results of using the metaverse, notably virtual and extended reality (XR) labs, for workforce development and offers guidance on implementation and steps necessary to deploy this technology. XR is an umbrella term that encompasses all immersive technologies that blend physical and digital worlds, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).

The KP compiles a catalog of available virtual and XR labs in the market in high-demand sectors, such as auto-mechanics, nursing, and welding. Overall, the metaverse is reshaping workforce development in three key aspects:

  • Reducing risks and fostering safety: Some training situations and learning experiences may be dangerous or difficult to access (e.g., health care, welding training, emergency preparedness, mass disasters, etc.).
  • Promoting technical proficiency: The metaverse allows for unlimited practice opportunities and can personalize the pace (and scenarios) of the learning experiences in a simulated environment.

Enhancing efficiency and monitoring: Training in the metaverse requires less investment in inputs and consumables; allows for easier adjustments to changes in the industry and facilitates data collection and analysis on students’ use and performance…(More)”.

Unleashing possibilities, ignoring risks: Why we need tools to manage AI’s impact on jobs

Article by Katya Klinova and Anton Korinek: “…Predicting the effects of a new technology on labor demand is difficult and involves significant uncertainty. Some would argue that, given the uncertainty, we should let the “invisible hand” of the market decide our technological destiny. But we believe that the difficulty of answering the question “Who is going to benefit and who is going to lose out?” should not serve as an excuse for never posing the question in the first place. As we emphasized, the incentives for cutting labor costs are artificially inflated. Moreover, the invisible hand theorem does not hold for technological change. Therefore, a failure to investigate the distribution of benefits and costs of AI risks invites a future with too many “so-so” uses of AI—uses that concentrate gains while distributing the costs. Although predictions about the downstream impacts of AI systems will always involve some uncertainty, they are nonetheless useful to spot applications of AI that pose the greatest risks to labor early on and to channel the potential of AI where society needs it the most.

In today’s society, the labor market serves as a primary mechanism for distributing income as well as for providing people with a sense of meaning, community, and purpose. It has been documented that job loss can lead to regional decline, a rise in “deaths of despair,” addiction and mental health problems. The path that we lay out aims to prevent abrupt job losses or declines in job quality on the national and global scale, providing an additional tool for managing the pace and shape of AI-driven labor market transformation.

Nonetheless, we do not want to rule out the possibility that humanity may eventually be much happier in a world where machines do a lot more economically valuable work. Even despite our best efforts to manage the pace and shape of AI labor market disruption through regulation and worker-centric practices, we may still face a future with significantly reduced human labor demand. Should the demand for human labor decrease permanently with the advancement of AI, timely policy responses will be needed to address both the lost incomes as well as the lost sense of meaning and purpose. In the absence of significant efforts to distribute the gains from advanced AI more broadly, the possible devaluation of human labor would deeply impact income distribution and democratic institutions’ sustainability. While a jobless future is not guaranteed, its mere possibility and the resulting potential societal repercussions demand serious consideration. One promising proposal to consider is to create an insurance policy against a dramatic decrease in the demand for human labor that automatically kicks in if the share of income received by workers declines, for example a “seed” Universal Basic Income that starts at a very small level and remains unchanged if workers continue to prosper but automatically rises if there is large scale worker displacement…(More)”.

Combining Human Expertise with Artificial Intelligence: Experimental Evidence from Radiology

Paper by Nikhil Agarwal, Alex Moehring, Pranav Rajpurkar & Tobias Salz: “While Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms have achieved performance levels comparable to human experts on various predictive tasks, human experts can still access valuable contextual information not yet incorporated into AI predictions. Humans assisted by AI predictions could outperform both human-alone or AI-alone. We conduct an experiment with professional radiologists that varies the availability of AI assistance and contextual information to study the effectiveness of human-AI collaboration and to investigate how to optimize it. Our findings reveal that (i) providing AI predictions does not uniformly increase diagnostic quality, and (ii) providing contextual information does increase quality. Radiologists do not fully capitalize on the potential gains from AI assistance because of large deviations from the benchmark Bayesian model with correct belief updating. The observed errors in belief updating can be explained by radiologists’ partially underweighting the AI’s information relative to their own and not accounting for the correlation between their own information and AI predictions. In light of these biases, we design a collaborative system between radiologists and AI. Our results demonstrate that, unless the documented mistakes can be corrected, the optimal solution involves assigning cases either to humans or to AI, but rarely to a human assisted by AI…(More)”.

AI and the automation of work

Essay by Benedict Evans: “…We should start by remembering that we’ve been automating work for 200 years. Every time we go through a wave of automation, whole classes of jobs go away, but new classes of jobs get created. There is frictional pain and dislocation in that process, and sometimes the new jobs go to different people in different places, but over time the total number of jobs doesn’t go down, and we have all become more prosperous.

When this is happening to your own generation, it seems natural and intuitive to worry that this time, there aren’t going to be those new jobs. We can see the jobs that are going away, but we can’t predict what the new jobs will be, and often they don’t exist yet. We know (or should know), empirically, that there always have been those new jobs in the past, and that they weren’t predictable either: no-one in 1800 would have predicted that in 1900 a million Americans would work on ‘railways’ and no-one in 1900 would have predicted ‘video post-production’ or ‘software engineer’ as employment categories. But it seems insufficient to take it on faith that this will happen now just because it always has in the past. How do you know it will happen this time? Is this different?

At this point, any first-year economics student will tell us that this is answered by, amongst other things, the ‘Lump of Labour’ fallacy.

The Lump of Labour fallacy is the misconception that there is a fixed amount of work to be done, and that if some work is taken by a machine then there will be less work for people. But if it becomes cheaper to use a machine to make, say, a pair of shoes, then the shoes are cheaper, more people can buy shoes and they have more money to spend on other things besides, and we discover new things we need or want, and new jobs. The efficient gain isn’t confined to the shoe: generally, it ripples outward through the economy and creates new prosperity and new jobs. So, we don’t know what the new jobs will be, but we have a model that says, not just that there always have been new jobs, but why that is inherent in the process. Don’t worry about AI!The most fundamental challenge to this model today, I think, is to say that no, what’s really been happening for the last 200 years of automation is that we’ve been moving up the scale of human capability…(More)”.

Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Algorithmic Management, and Labor Law

Chapter by Pauline Kim: “Employers are increasingly relying on algorithms and AI to manage their workforces, using automated systems to recruit, screen, select, supervise, discipline, and even terminate employees. This chapter explores the effects of these systems on the rights of workers in standard work relationships, who are presumptively protected by labor laws. It examines how these new technological tools affect fundamental worker interests and how existing law applies, focusing primarily as examples on two particular concerns—nondiscrimination and privacy. Although current law provides some protections, legal doctrine has largely developed with human managers in mind, and as a result, fails to fully apprehend the risks posed by algorithmic tools. Thus, while anti-discrimination law prohibits discrimination by workplace algorithms, the existing framework has a number of gaps and uncertainties when applied to these systems. Similarly, traditional protections for employee privacy are ill-equipped to address the sheer volume and granularity of worker data that can now be collected, and the ability of computational techniques to extract new insights and infer sensitive information from that data. More generally, the expansion of algorithmic management affects other fundamental worker interests because it tends to increase employer power vis à vis labor. This chapter concludes by briefly considering the role that data protection laws might play in addressing the risks of algorithmic management…(More)”.

The A.I. Revolution Will Change Work. Nobody Agrees How.

Sarah Kessler in The New York Times: “In 2013, researchers at Oxford University published a startling number about the future of work: 47 percent of all United States jobs, they estimated, were “at risk” of automation “over some unspecified number of years, perhaps a decade or two.”

But a decade later, unemployment in the country is at record low levels. The tsunami of grim headlines back then — like “The Rich and Their Robots Are About to Make Half the World’s Jobs Disappear” — look wildly off the mark.

But the study’s authors say they didn’t actually mean to suggest doomsday was near. Instead, they were trying to describe what technology was capable of.

It was the first stab at what has become a long-running thought experiment, with think tanks, corporate research groups and economists publishing paper after paper to pinpoint how much work is “affected by” or “exposed to” technology.

In other words: If cost of the tools weren’t a factor, and the only goal was to automate as much human labor as possible, how much work could technology take over?

When the Oxford researchers, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, were conducting their study, IBM Watson, a question-answering system powered by artificial intelligence, had just shocked the world by winning “Jeopardy!” Test versions of autonomous vehicles were circling roads for the first time. Now, a new wave of studies follows the rise of tools that use generative A.I.

In March, Goldman Sachs estimated that the technology behind popular A.I. tools such as DALL-E and ChatGPT could automate the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs. Researchers at Open AI, the maker of those tools, and the University of Pennsylvania found that 80 percent of the U.S. work force could see an effect on at least 10 percent of their tasks.

“There’s tremendous uncertainty,” said David Autor, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has been studying technological change and the labor market for more than 20 years. “And people want to provide those answers.”

But what exactly does it mean to say that, for instance, the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs could be affected by A. I.?

It depends, Mr. Autor said. “Affected could mean made better, made worse, disappeared, doubled.”…(More)”.

From the Economic Graph to Economic Insights: Building the Infrastructure for Delivering Labor Market Insights from LinkedIn Data

Blog by Patrick Driscoll and Akash Kaura: “LinkedIn’s vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. Since its inception in 2015, the Economic Graph Research and Insights (EGRI) team has worked to make this vision a reality by generating labor market insights such as:

In this post, we’ll describe how the EGRI Data Foundations team (Team Asimov) leverages LinkedIn’s cutting-edge data infrastructure tools such as Unified Metrics PlatformPinot, and Datahub to ensure we can deliver data and insights robustly, securely, and at scale to a myriad of partners. We will illustrate this through a case study of how we built the pipeline for our most well-known and oft-cited flagship metric: the LinkedIn Hiring Rate…(More)”.

Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity

Book by Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson” A thousand years of history and contemporary evidence make one thing clear. Progress depends on the choices we make about technology. New ways of organizing production and communication can either serve the narrow interests of an elite or become the foundation for widespread prosperity.

The wealth generated by technological improvements in agriculture during the European Middle Ages was captured by the nobility and used to build grand cathedrals while peasants remained on the edge of starvation. The first hundred years of industrialization in England delivered stagnant incomes for working people. And throughout the world today, digital technologies and artificial intelligence undermine jobs and democracy through excessive automation, massive data collection, and intrusive surveillance.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Power and Progress demonstrates that the path of technology was once—and may again be—brought under control. The tremendous computing advances of the last half century can become empowering and democratizing tools, but not if all major decisions remain in the hands of a few hubristic tech leaders.With their breakthrough economic theory and manifesto for a better society, Acemoglu and Johnson provide the vision needed to reshape how we innovate and who really gains from technological advances…(More)”.