Finland uses prisoners to teach AI

Usually correctional work in prisonsthey are associated with physical labor, but the prisoners of two correctional facilities in Finland are engaged in a completely unexpected job for such places - they sort and classify the information that is used to train artificial intelligence algorithms commissioned by the start-up Vainu AI developer. The company itself believes that this practice is an excellent opportunity for prisoners to learn new skills, but third-party experts say that this is very similar to the economic exploitation of people, because they pay a penny for it.

As the portal The Verge points outco-founder of the company Tuomas Rasil, Vainu creates an extensive database of organizations around the world that help businesses find contractors for a job. To do this, it is necessary to proofread hundreds of thousands of business articles published on the Internet, tagging the information relevant for a particular task. For example, two articles are given: one about Apple’s technology company, the other about a company with the word “apple” in it. The necessary article is marked by the employee, gets into a special database, from where it is already “fed” to the artificial intelligence algorithm for its training.

Work with articles in English Vainudoes not cause problems. The company simply opened an account on the Amazon Mechanical Turk Internet site (the platform allows companies to break work into small tasks and offer them to people from all over the world). However, as Rasila points out, this platform "was not very useful if you need to work with Finnish." Vainu has only one intern, able to efficiently and quickly mark many articles written in Finnish.

“We realized that we need to change something. Search for a different approach, ”says Rasila.

So it turned out that the Vainu office is in onethe building with the headquarters of the Finnish Penal Enforcement Administration (CSA), and then the company had an idea: why not use prison labor for this work?

The collaboration between CSA and Vainu began aroundthree months ago. Currently, the company is working with two Finnish prisons - one is located in Helsinki, the other - in Turku. Each Vainu delivered 10 computers and pays for every prisoner’s execution of the assignment directly to the CSA. The company points out that at a cost it is comparable to work on the Mechanical Turk platform (the average payment on this platform is $ 2 per hour), the only difference is that the prisoner’s salary is charged by the CSA, which also selects prisoners to organize data.

According to Rasil, the management of CSA is very quite cooperative, since a new kind of correctional work does not require the use of any special equipment - only a laptop is needed.

“Unlike other types of correctional labor, there is no risk of violence,” Rasila commented.

Working in the same metalworking, and having accessto the tools, the prisoners are quite capable of turning them into self-made weapons, adds the head of Vainu. According to his calculations, a little less than a hundred prisoners are currently working for the company. Their employment is "only a few hours a day." Is it really so, the publication of The Verge, who turned to CSA for comment, has not yet been found out.

Given the current volume of tasks Vainu and CSAsigned a cooperation agreement for a year. In the future, the company plans to organize cooperation with other Finnish prisons, and later - to enter other markets, working with other local languages. In their opinion, this will benefit all parties. One of the reasons that can motivate prisoners to do this work, of course, is the possibility of earning money. However, for companies like Vainu, “the main interest here will most likely be due to the fact that the need for AI training using huge databases is growing significantly around the world,” says Rasila. The CSA shares a positive view of the question and adds that such programs are a great way to expand the range of available work for prisoners “in accordance with the requirements of the modern world in matters of work”.

According to Lilly Irani, a communication professor fromUniversity of California at San Diego, which The Verge turned to for comment, the demand for such work in many countries can indeed become very high over time. This is due to the fact that AI-algorithms must be trained with regard to cultural and other features of certain countries, and most people working with the same Mechanical Turk are residents of the United States.

According to Rasil, such work allowsdevelop new skills that may be useful in the future, but at the same time notes that the tasks performed by prisoners do not require any special knowledge from them. The only thing that is required of them - literacy. And this, in turn, casts doubt on the usefulness of similar work in other areas where it is also necessary to classify more specific information, for example, scientific information.

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