Finland uses the prisoners for learning AI

Usually the correctional work in prisons are associated with physical labor, but inmates in two correctional institutions in Finland are doing quite unexpected for such places work – sorted and klassificeret information, which is used to train artificial intelligence algorithms in order Vainu startup engaged in the development of AI technologies. The company believes that this practice is an excellent opportunity for prisoners to learn new skills, but outside experts argue that it is very similar to the economic exploitation of the people, because it pays pennies.

As indicated by the site The Verge, passing the words of company co-founder Tuomas rasila, Vainu creates a broad base of organizations worldwide that can help businesses in finding contractors for a particular work. For this it is necessary to carry out the proofreading of hundreds of thousands published on the Internet business articles, marking relevant for the given task information. For example, given two articles: one about technology company Apple, the other about the company that has the word “apple”. Need an article is marked with the employee falls into a special database, where already “fed” artificial intelligence algorithm for its training.

Work with articles in English Vainu doesn’t cause problems. The company just made an account on the online platform Amazon Mechanical Turk (a platform that allows companies to break down their work into small tasks and offer them to people from around the world). However, as pointed rasila, the platform “was not very useful if you want to work with the Finnish language”. At Vainu there is only one candidate, capable of effectively and quickly tag a lot of articles written in Finnish.

“We realized that we needed to change something. To look for a different approach,” says rasile.

So it turned out that the office Vainu located in the same building with the headquarters of the Department on execution of criminal sanctions Finland (CSA), and then the company had the idea: why not use prison labor for this job?

The collaboration between CSA and Vainu started about three months ago. Currently the company is working with two Finnish prisons – one located in Helsinki, one in Turku. Within each Vainu put on 10 computers and pays for each run concluded the job directly to the CSA. The company suggests that the cost is comparable to the work platform Mechanical Turk (the average payment on this platform is $ 2 per hour), the only difference is that salary accrues CSA concluded that selects prisoners to organize your data.

According to rasila, management of CSA is quite happy with the cooperation as a new kind of correctional work does not require any special equipment – just need a laptop.

“Unlike other types of correctional work, there is no risk of violence,” says rasile.

Working in the same metal, and having access to tools, the prisoners are quite capable to turn them into improvised weapons, adds the head Vainu. According to his calculations, the company now employs about a hundred prisoners. Their employment is “just a few hours a day.” Whether so it actually, the Verge, has applied to the CSA for comment, to know not yet possible.

With the current volume of tasks Vainu and CSA signed a cooperation agreement for the year. The company is also planning 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 to motivate prisoners to do this work, of course, lies in the possibility of earnings. However, for companies such as Vainu “the main interest here, rather, will be related to the fact that the need for training the AI to use the vast databases is increasing significantly worldwide,” says rasile. In the CSA share a positive point of view on the issue and added 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 employment”.

According to Lilly Irani, a Professor of communication at the University of California in San Diego, which The Verge asked for comment, the demand for these jobs, in many countries, over time, can really become very high. Due to the fact that the AI-algorithms need to be trained taking into account cultural and other characteristics of certain countries, and most of the people working with the same Mechanical Turk, are residents of the United States.

According to rasila, this work allows us to develop new skills that can be useful in the future, but at the same time notes that prisoners performed tasks do not require any special knowledge. The only thing required of them is literacy. And this, in turn, casts doubt on the usefulness of such work in other fields, which also need to classify more specific information, such as scientific.

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