When Artificial Intelligence works as intended, Silicon Valley types often say it’s “like magic”. But it isn’t magic. It’s Brenda, a 26-year-old single mother who lives Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, and perhaps the toughest neighbourhood on earth, where hundreds of thousands of people live in a space not too much bigger than London’s Hyde Park.
Brenda loads up an image, and then uses the mouse to trace around just about everything. People, cars, road signs, lane markings – even the sky, specifying whether it’s cloudy or bright. Ingesting millions of these images into an artificial intelligence system means a self-driving car, to use one example, can begin to “recognise” those objects in the real world. The more data, the supposedly smarter the machine.
She and her colleagues sit close – often too close – to their monitors, zooming in on the images to make sure not a single pixel is tagged incorrectly. Their work will be checked by a superior, who will send it back if it’s not up to scratch. For the fastest, most accurate trainers, the honour of having your name up on one of the many TV screens around the office. And the most popular perk of all: shopping vouchers.
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