Humans Turn Raw Data into Fuel for A.I.

(p. B1) Some of the most critical work in advancing China’s technology goals takes place in a former cement factory in the middle of the country’s heartland, far from the aspiring Silicon Valleys of Beijing and Shenzhen. An idled concrete mixer still stands in the middle of the courtyard. Boxes of melamine dinnerware are stacked in a warehouse next door.
Inside, Hou Xiameng runs a company that helps artificial intelligence make sense of the world. Two dozen young people go through photos and videos, labeling just about everything they see. That’s a car. That’s a traffic light. That’s bread, that’s milk, that’s chocolate. That’s what it looks like when a person walks.
“I used to think the machines are geniuses,” Ms. Hou, 24, said. “Now I know we’re the reason for their genius.”
In China, long the world’s factory floor, a new generation of low-wage workers is assembling the foundations of the future. Start-ups in smaller, cheaper cities have sprung up to apply labels to China’s huge trove of images and surveillance footage. If China is the Saudi Arabia of data, as one expert says, these businesses are the refineries, turning raw data into the fuel that can power China’s A.I. ambitions.

For the full story, see:
Li Yuan. “THE NEW NEW WORLD; Doing Time on the A.I. Assembly Line.”) The New York Times (Monday, Nov. 26 2018): B1 & B3.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 25, 2018, and has the title “THE NEW NEW WORLD; How Cheap Labor Drives China’s A.I. Ambitions.”)

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