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These Prisoners Are Training AI

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hand in a numbered sleave holds a mouse on a mousepad, illustration

Inmates at three prisons in Finland perform data labeling in three-hour shifts.

Credit: Getty Images

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 works for the world's most widely spoken language, English. But in Finland, startup Metroc has 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.

Inmates can volunteer at three Finnish prisons to earn money through data labor. They are paid by the hour, not by their work's speed or quality. "It's a little boring," says one inmate, who's paid €1.54 ($1.67) an hour to answer yes or no questions on short chunks of text she's just read about real estate. The work helps train a large language model owned by Metroc.

From Wired
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