Data labeling industry / When humans feed the machine

Challenges and opportunities of Artificial Intelligence for Good


Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is at the core of a vision that leads the future of our world. Its main goal is to provide autonomous solutions for each mankind’s problem, a fully automated system that will serve humans and live among them.

A collaboration between Humans and Machines

Machine Learning (ML) is described by one of its major inventors, Yann Le Cun, Turing Award, as “the ability of machines to execute tasks and solve problems in ways normally attributed to humans”. Computers are programmed with data and algorithms in order to make predictions or decisions that improve automatically through experience.

Toward a responsible AI / work & ethics

As AI expands, Ethical AI concerns rise. One major concern is the labor organization. In fact, the industry relies on a global workforce provided by a distributed network of outsourcing platforms. Those crowd-worker companies recruit mostly from emerging countries (India, Indonesia, China, Russia, Venezuela, Africa). Workers are often classified as contractors/free-lancers which are under-paid and over-tasked, with no welfare benefits, minimum wages or overtime compensations. Providers such as Amazon Turk post on their website batches of tasks called Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs ) and pay registered micro-workers to fulfill them. Those HITs are often paid just a few cents. A recent study in the US showed that the median hourly wage on Amazon Turk was $1.77, and only 4 percent of workers made more than the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour. Large companies such as Amazon, Appen, Cloud factory, LongMao employ hundreds of thousands of individuals within those terms.

Merging purpose and profit / AI companies & ethics

The American company Samasource sets an example of ethical AI with a commitment to creating sustainable pathways out of poverty. Samasource was initially founded in 2008 as a non profit organization by Leila Janah on the principle that while “talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not”. The company formally employs their workers ( mostly in East Africa ) and gives them all access to the same benefits regardless of their location. Workers are doing highly complex yet interesting work, and continue to move up the value chain. Samasource employees make higher levels of employment and earnings, 3 to 4 times higher than local wages, and get access to training. So far, they have employed thousands of workers and helped more than 50 000 people to lift themselves out of poverty. Wendy Gonzalez, Samasource CEO, hopes that this will show that “ technology is not only disruptive in a good way for business but can be disruptive in a good way for people” (in Forbes ). The company is also the first AI company to receive B Corp certification. Certified B Corporations are businesses that balance purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. In other words, businesses that make a positive impact.

Conclusion & Future

Artificial intelligence will continue to expand at a fast pace all around the world. The demand for data services such as data labeling will continue to grow steadily and more people will join the global human annotators task force. The field will evolve from five main aspects: Volume, Professionalization, Expertise, Adaptive, Local.