Time Exclusive: OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers on Less Than $2 Per Hour
Even as the wider tech economy slows down amid anticipation of a downturn, investors are racing to pour billions of dollars into “generative AI,” the sector of the tech industry of which OpenAI is the undisputed leader. Computer-generated text, images, video, and audio will transform the way countless industries do business, the most bullish investors believe, boosting efficiency everywhere from the creative arts, to law, to computer programming. But the working conditions of data labelers reveal a darker part of that picture: that for all its glamor, AI often relies on hidden human labor in the Global South that can often be damaging and exploitative. These invisible workers remain on the margins even as their work contributes to billion-dollar industries.
I’ve been sounding the alarm for some time now that #generativeAI is exploitive, but I was primarily considering the ways in which these large learning models rely on scraping online content without the consent of its human authors. Now we learn the uncomfortable truth that these popular tools built by OpenAI such as ChatGPT were made possible by the exploitation of third-party low-wage workers in parts of the world Silicon Valley would rather us Euro-centric netizens not know too much about.
But hey, this is going to be Big Tech’s next Big Thing, so what’s a few poor African souls with faltering mental health in light of Western Capitalism. Hmm, I wonder what ChatGPT thinks about this single-minded pursuit of the almighty dollar, ethics be damned… (Don’t ask.)