The Tedium of Teaching AI

Machines don’t just learn by themselves. At centres around the world, hundreds of people spend long hours tagging images. It’s dull, badly paid and often disturbing work

Namita Pradhan sat at a desk in downtown Bhubaneswar, India, about 40 miles from the Bay of Bengal, staring at a video recorded in a hospital on the other side of the world.

The video showed the inside of someone’s colon. Pradhan was looking for polyps, small growths in the large intestine that could lead to cancer. When she found one – they look a bit like a slimy, angry pimple – she marked it with her computer mouse and keyboard, drawing a digital circle around the tiny bulge.

She was not trained as a doctor, but she was helping to teach an artificial intelligence system that could eventually do the work of a doctor.

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