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Google's contractors: We are doing AI work. And we are not paid for that

Christian Fernsby |
Google use of artificial intelligence to power many of its products, including its Google Assistant.

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Although the Assistant can book a restaurant reservation and translate live conversations in two dozen languages, a group of contractors toiling behind the scenes builds the gigantic data sets required to power the technology.

According to a new report in The Guardian, those contractors part of a much larger group of more than 100,000 temps, vendors and contractors at Google have been pressured to work unpaid overtime and often feel like second-class citizens at the tech giant.

“It’s smoke and mirrors if anything,” a current Google employee told the British news outlet.

“Artificial intelligence is not that artificial; it’s human beings that are doing the work.”

“It’s smoke and mirrors if anything,” said a current Google employee who, as with the others quoted in this story, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

“Artificial intelligence is not that artificial; it’s human beings that are doing the work.”

The Google employee works on Pygmalion, the team responsible for producing linguistic data sets that make the Assistant work.

And although he is employed directly by Google, most of his Pygmalion coworkers are subcontracted temps who have for years been routinely pressured to work unpaid overtime, according to seven current and former members of the team.

These employees, some of whom spoke to the Guardian because they said efforts to raise concerns internally were ignored, alleged that the unpaid work was a symptom of the workplace culture put in place by the executive who founded Pygmalion.

That executive was fired by Google in March following an internal investigation.


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