AGI is Just ‘A Guy in India’

AGI is Just ‘A Guy in India’

Amazon recently decided to phase out its checkout-less grocery stores which were equipped with a ‘Just Walk Out’ technology. This system basically allowed customers at the store to skip the checkout process by just scanning the QR code when they entered the store.

The automated technology came with a desi-twist and wasn’t fully automated. It turns out that Just Walk Out relied on about 1,000 people in India who watched and labelled the videos. They had been doing this since mid-2022, and their job included manually reviewing transactions and labelling images and videos.

Automated technology today relies heavily on human intervention.

According to a report, the exact number of employees is not confirmed. Still, the role of these employees, who are called machine learning data associates, was to annotate video images and validate purchases. Just Walk Out Technology wanted to phase out these reviewers over the years.

AI stands for ‘Actually Indians’

Outsourcing for data labelling has been a long standing practice when it comes to training and keeping AI models working. For example, according to a report last year, OpenAI outsourced its data labelling and the task to make ChatGPT less toxic to Kenyan labourers who earned less than $2 per hour.

The biggest reason that this approach does not work is that it is the hardest to scale. About 95% of the automation task through AI was expected to be achieved through human labelling, but it is impossible to achieve, or even scale down as the number of tasks would just increase.

Not just OpenAI and Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have been using low-paid work across the globe, from the Philippines to Colombia for labelling training data for AI models. Even though this might sound like exploitative work, it is actually creating a lot of employment in rural places across the globe. The only problem is that the wages are not that high.

“The mixture of experts are experts sitting in different parts of the world,” laughed a user on X. “AI is nothing without its people,” said another. It seems like for Amazon, AI was just underpaid technology with overworked Indian workers.

The truth: AI is creating jobs

While the world is touting again and again that AI is replacing jobs and humans, it turns out that a lot of these technologies that are claiming to automate tasks are just failures. It also points to the reality that it is actually cheaper to get Indians to do the job while the companies are trying to automate technologies with AI.

This is creating an abundance of jobs in cities that were initially thought to be the most easily replaced by AI. Another Indian company which is creating such jobs in India is NextWealth while also feeding enterprises’ need for data. These jobs in rural India and small towns are particularly about data labelling, annotation of datasets, and testing of outputs.

Sridhar Mitta, the founder and MD of NextWealth told AIM that with a network of ten centres across India and a workforce of nearly 5,000 people, the company offers a range of services providing comprehensive support in AI/GenAI pipelines, from training and deployment to enhancement of these models.

Another company called Karya works with the rural populace to collect data in regional languages and dialects on the brink of extinction. Furthermore, several Indian enterprises such as iMerit, Trax Technology, InterGlobe, Scale AI, CloudFactory, and SmartOne excel in AI and ML-related services, particularly in the domains of data annotation and enrichment.

Businesses possessing well-organised, explicitly labelled data are poised for success in the coming months as they embark on the development and launch of AI solutions. Amazon enlisted a substantial labour force to address the issue and implemented live manual labelling.

It turns out that for most of the AI solutions, just as the cloud is essentially renting someone else’s computer, it relies on outsourcing tasks to low-wage workers.

The post AGI is Just ‘A Guy in India’ appeared first on Analytics India Magazine.

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