The People Paid to Train AI are Outsourcing Their Work… to AI

It’s a practice that could introduce further errors into already error-prone models.

It takes an incredible amount of data to train AI systems to perform specific tasks accurately and reliably. Many companies pay gig workers on platforms like Mechanical Turk to complete tasks that are typically hard to automate, such as solving CAPTCHAs, labeling data and annotating text. This data is then fed into AI models to train them. The workers are poorly paid and are often expected to complete lots of tasks very quickly.

No wonder some of them may be turning to tools like ChatGPT to maximize their earning potential. But how many? To find out, a team of researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) hired 44 people on the gig work platform Amazon Mechanical Turk to summarize 16 extracts from medical research papers. Then they analyzed their responses using an AI model they’d trained themselves that looks for telltale signals of ChatGPT output, such as lack of variety in choice of words. They also extracted the workers’ keystrokes in a bid to work out whether they’d copied and pasted their answers, an indicator that they’d generated their responses elsewhere.

They estimated that somewhere between 33% and 46% of the workers had used AI models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT. It’s a percentage that’s likely to grow even higher as ChatGPT and other AI systems become more powerful and easily accessible, according to the authors of the study, which has been shared on arXiv and is yet to be peer-reviewed.

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