US Representative Pramila Jayapal and Senator Edward J Markey wrote a letter as part of Congress’ ongoing forums into AI pressing major tech companies to “answer for” the working conditions of a growing AI underclass of invisible workers behind AI software.
The letter, addressed to OpenAI, Alphabet and Anthropic among others, concerns the workers who tag and label AI training data, as well as rate the quality of generated responses.
“Contrary to the popular belief that AI is entirely machine-based and autonomous,” the letter reads, “AI systems in fact depend heavily on human labour.”
The letter also explains the strict working conditions where these workers are under tight surveillance and often receive no health insurance or benefits.
“Workers are often under constant surveillance, with keystroke logs, computer screenshots, and even webcam photos,” the letter continued.
Speaking to Verdict directly Ed Stackhouse, a Google Bard rater and Alphabet Workers Union member, confirmed these strict conditions.
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“The AI underclass already exists in the form of low wage, benefit lacking AI workers known as raters.” Stackhouse said, “We are the marginalised, invisible workers who are required to prepare, clean and label thousands of pieces of information so that it can effectively train AI systems.”
Stackhouse cited that there is an “unimaginable” daily volume of work for raters like him, often with “tight time restraints” and the threat of punishment if not completed.
Whilst Google already has a basic minimum $15 wage for most of its employees, Stackhouse states that raters are “explicitly excluded” from this.
According to research analyst GlobalData forecasts, AI will soon become a $984bn market by 2030.
“If Google can treat us without standards,” said Stackhouse, “then we are driving towards a future where any and all workers are denied dignified wages and working conditions.”
The original letter also states that workers are often unpaid without proper explanation and almost a third of their time is taken up with uncompensated work.
The lawmaker’s letter has requested written responses from all nine companies it addressed.