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article imageInmates are training AI as part prison labor tasks

By Tim Sandle     Mar 29, 2019 in Technology
An unusual type of prison labor has been introduced for inmates in Finland's jails: training artificial intelligence. This is based around categorizing data which is used to train artificial intelligence algorithms for a startup company.
Most prison labor involves tending to agriculture, making clothes or working in a kitchen. Finland authorities have agreed to something slightly different and more in tune with the digital age: training artificial intelligence. This has been undertaken in conjunction with the startup company Vainu. Vainu collects, indexes and analyzes data from millions of online data sources, harnessing big data analytics and insights to assist businesses with key decision making.
Reported by The Verge, Vainu sees the new arrangement as an innovative form of prison reform, and one that seeks to teach valuable skills to inmates which will help them with their future rehabilitation back into society. However, there are others who regard the move as a step too far, exploiting prisoners to carry out tasks that in the outside world would attract far higher wages than the low levels typically paid out to prisoners.
As Futurism points out, Vainu had previously paid participants in its artificial intelligence scheme through Mechanical Turk, which is a service where people perform the types of tasks necessary for preparing artificial intelligence training data. Mechanical Turk, owned by Amazon, is crowdsourcing Internet marketplace that brings together individuals and businesses (or 'requesters') to coordinate the use of human intelligence to undertake activities that computers are currently unable to do. Some of these activities are then used to train computers to address some of these shortfalls in the future.
This changed when Vainu realized it could reduce costs by working with the Finnish Criminal Sanctions Agency (CSA). Through this, Vainu also gained access to a large pool of Finnish-speaking labor, which contrasts with the largely English-speaking Mechanical Turk. The specific task that the prisoners are engaged in is helping to create a global database that is designed to help companies find contractors.
Fortune quotes the CSA as saying: "The Criminal Sanctions Agency has been constantly developing prison work, focusing on the rehabilitative aspect of the work and on training prisoners in the skills needed in future working life."
More about Artificial intelligence, Prisoners, Jail, Training
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