Tech workers demand Google and Amazon to stop their complicity in Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people

Since 2021, thousands of Amazon and Google tech workers have been organising against Project Nimbus, Google and Amazon’s shared USD$1.2 billion contract with the Israeli government and military. Since then, there has been no response from management or executive. Their organising efforts have accelerated since 7 October 2023, with the ongoing genocide on Gaza and occupied Palestinian territories by the Israeli state.

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­Data Work and its Layers of (In)visibility

No technology has seemingly steam-rolled through every industry and over every community the way artificial intelligence (AI) has in the past decade. Many speak of the inevitable crisis that AI will bring. Others sing its praises as a new Messiah that will save us from the ails of society. What the public and mainstream media hardly ever discuss is that AI is a technology that takes its cues from humans. Any present or future harms caused by AI are a direct result of deliberate human decisions, with companies prioritizing record profits, in an attempt to concentrate power by convincing the world that technology is the only solution to societal problems.

By Adrienne Williams and Milagros Miceli for Just Tech on September 6, 2023

Mean Images

An artist considers a new form of machinic representation: the statistical rendering of large datasets, indexed to the probable rather than the real of photography; to the uncanny composite rather than the abstraction of the graph.

By Hito Steyerl for New Left Review on April 28, 2023

We come to bury ChatGPT, not to praise it.

Large language models (LLMs) like the GPT family learn the statistical structure of language by optimising their ability to predict missing words in sentences (as in ‘The cat sat on the [BLANK]’). Despite the impressive technical ju-jitsu of transformer models and the billions of parameters they learn, it’s still a computational guessing game. ChatGPT is, in technical terms, a ‘bullshit generator’.

By Dan McQuillan for Dan McQuillan on February 6, 2023

The cheap, racialised, Kenyan workers making ChatGPT “safe”

Stories about the hidden and exploitative racialised labour which fuels the development of technologies continue to surface, and this time it is on ChatGPT. Billy Perrigo, who previously reported on Meta’s content moderation sweatshop and on whistleblower Daniel Moutang, who took Meta to court, has shed light on how OpenAI has relied upon outsourced exploitative labour in Kenya to make ChatGPT less toxic.

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AI innovation for whom, and at whose expense?

This fantastic article by Williams, Miceli and Gebru, describes how the methodological shift of AI systems to deep-learning-based models has required enormous amounts of “data” for models to learn from. Large volumes of time-consuming work, such as labelling millions of images, can now be broken down into smaller tasks and outsourced to data labourers across the globe. These data labourers have terribly low wagen, often working in dire working conditions.

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Whitewashing call centre workers’ accents

Silicon Valley strikes again, with yet another techno-solutionist idea. Sanas, a speech technology startup founded by three former Stanford students, aims to alter the accents of call centre workers situated in countries such as India and the Philippines. The goal is to make them sound white and American. With a slide of a button, a call centre’s voice will be transformed into a slightly robotic, and unmistakeably white, American voice.

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Racist Technology in Action: How hiring tools can be sexist and racist

One of the classic examples of how AI systems can reinforce social injustice is Amazon’s A.I. hiring tool. In 2014, Amazon built an ´A.I. powered´ tool to assess resumes and recommend the top candidates that would go on to be interviewed. However, the tool turned out to be very biased, systematically preferring men over women.

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Exploited and silenced: Meta’s Black whistleblower in Nairobi

In 2019, a Facebook content moderator in Nairobi, Daniel Motaung, who was paid USD 2.20 per hour, was fired. He was working for one of Meta’s largest outsourcing partners in Africa, Sama, which brands itself as an “ethical AI” outsourcing company, and is headquartered in California. Motaung led a unionisation attempt with more than 100 colleagues, fighting for better wages and working conditions.

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Don’t miss this 4-part journalism series on ‘AI Colonialism’

The MIT Technology Review has written a four-part series on how the impact of AI is “repeating the patterns of colonial history.” The Review is careful not to directly compare the current situation with the colonialist capturing of land, extraction of resources, and exploitation of people. Yet, they clearly show that AI does further enrich the wealthy at the tremendous expense of the poor.

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Exploitative labour is central to the infrastructure of AI

In this piece, Julian Posada writes about a family of five in Venezuela, who synchronise their routines so that there will always be two people at the computer working for a crowdsourcing platform to make a living. They earn a few cents per task in a cryptocurrency and are only allowed to cash out once they’ve made at least the equivalent of USD 10. On average they earn about USD 20 per week, but their earnings can be erratic, resulting in extreme stress and precarity.

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Transformative Justice and Knowledge Production in Tech

Techno-capitalism is re-negotiating the social contract but knowledge about technologies is too often sequestered behind the lock doors of industry. Black women researchers like Dr. Timnit Gebru who raised alarm about the racial and ecological implications of emergent technologies are systematically silenced and forced out. Additionally, corporate capture of academic departments has even further limited the space to do critical research. Given these obstacles, how can researchers both inside and outside of tech companies do the difficult work of research, critique, and resistance? When individualist opportunism is the guiding norm of knowledge production, how do we cultivate a practice of transformative justice in the context of tech research? What are the set of tools and collective histories Black people in the Americas and the Black global diaspora can draw on in order to care for each other in the process of producing research about tech?

By Safiya Noble and Timnit Gebru for YouTube on March 31, 2022

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