Roundup: The data workers whose labor powers AI

Read to the end for a video to share with your friends to understand AI

Roundup: The data workers whose labor powers AI
Source: Unsplash/Luis Villafranca

Over the past year and a half, tech billionaires haven’t been able to shut up about AI. They want us to know it will make life so much better (as long as it doesn’t kill us all), and that we can’t stand in the way of its purported inevitability. But one of the things you won’t hear them talk about is the people behind their products — not the executives and engineers, but the poorly paid data workers without whom none of this would be possible.

Rather than providing my own commentary on the issue, I wanted to point you to a fascinating new project called the Data Workers’ Inquiry. It has inquiries from 15 data workers in Venezuela, Kenya, Syria, and Germany who did research with their colleagues and wrote about labor conditions in their workplaces. There are few places you’ll get a better insight into the side AI that the industry doesn’t want you to know about than by reading what the workers themselves have to share.

The project was put together by folks at the Distributed AI Research Institute, the Weizenbaum Institute, and Technische Universität Berlin. They’re also holding a launch event at 5pm CET / 11am ET on Monday, July 8 if you want to find out more. You can register here.

I haven’t been able to read through many of the inquiries yet, but I can’t wait to carve out time to dig in. If you’re into critical perspectives on technology that center workers, you’ll want to check it out.

Another week, another roundup! This week there are some recommended stories about corporate control of AI, artists’ anger at Apple Intelligence, and the playbook oils companies use to influence policy and public opinion. Plus, plenty of labor updates and other stories you might have missed.

Over on Tech Won’t Save Us, I spoke to Jason Koebler about how AI-generated garbage is flooding Facebook and how it represents not a dead internet, but a zombie one. It was a fascinating conversation!

Have a great week!

— Paris