Feeding the Machine: The Hidden Human Labour Powering AI by James Muldoon, Mark Graham & Callum Cant - review by Tim Hornyak

Tim Hornyak

The Ghost in the Tesla

Feeding the Machine: The Hidden Human Labour Powering AI

By

Canongate 274pp £20
 

If you’re an early adopter of new technology, you may find yourself going to work in a car that drives itself while you use social media and other cloud-based services to help you refine a new proposal for an advertising campaign centred on a virtual character. Using these tools boosts your productivity and gives you an edge over your colleagues. It seems almost like magic. Little do you know about the exploitation of people and natural resources that makes this all possible. Should you care?

When the virtual assistant ChatGPT was publicly released in late 2022, it sparked an AI boom that has been transforming how people work around the world. If you consider also the generative AI systems that have produced advances in computer vision and predictive power – developments that lie behind Tesla’s self-driving cars and the success of the logistics behemoth Amazon – it’s easy to think that we’re living in some kind of AI golden age.

Feeding the Machine is here to disabuse us of this fantasy. It’s the work of three researchers at Oxford University and Essex University who have teamed up at the Fairwork project, which analyses how AI and other technological changes are affecting working conditions around the world. Their book is a

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