Psssst! Wanna know a secret? A great deal of artificial intelligence—machine brainpower—isn’t artificial at all. Today’s computers drive automobiles, recognize images, and obey verbal commands. But so-called artificial intelligence (AI) often depends on hundreds of thousands of real live people.
Human-gathered data—collected for companies like Google, eBay, or Amazon—helps create complex algorithms (problem-solving processes). These algorithms allow self-driving cars to wind through traffic. They let Alexa figure out when to turn the lights on. They even check people into hotels.
But many such technologies simply wouldn’t work without lots of human input. Aria Khrisna works in Indonesia. He tags pictures of clothing for websites. Sure, AI can recognize a shirt. But it can’t always identify a shirt when it’s on a person sitting at a café and holding a newspaper. Khrisna’s brain easily filters out the extra information.
It’s the same all over the world. Humans help computers translate language quirks, label images, and transcribe text. In Venezuela, Marjorie Aguilar draws boxes around traffic objects to help educate self-driving car systems. And in India, Shamima Khatoon marks cars, lane markers, and traffic lights for a data-labeling company.
In the United States, some hotel chains use digital assistants. An AI named Amelia answers phones for InterContinental Hotels Group. If Amelia doesn’t understand a caller, the computer reroutes the call to a live worker. Amelia “listens” and then “learns” from the human responses.
Think about this: People are the brains behind AI. Since God created the Earth and everything in it, that makes Him the brain behind the brains! For all of technology’s amazing tricks, humans using God-given intellect must sometimes bail computers out.
Researcher Timnit Gebru wanted to estimate the income of people in a neighborhood. She knew cars were a marker of wealth. She tried to train AI to compare Google Street View images of parked cars with photos of cars on Craigslist. But the for-sale images didn’t look enough like the on-the-street images for the computer. Gebru ended up hiring actual car dealers to label data.
AI is still developing. Expert Trevor Darrell believes AI may perform without human help in five to 10 years. In the meantime, his group spends hundreds of thousands of dollars paying people to tag images that confuse computers. And even if someday they’re not translating or tagging, humans will still build, program, and repair the processers that run the world. Now who’s the smartypants?