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How AI Perpetuates Exploitation of the Global Majority


Core Concepts
AI is being used to further exploit and marginalize workers in the Global Majority, while benefiting a privileged few in the tech industry.
Abstract
The article discusses the unspoken application of AI, which is the continued exploitation of the Global Majority. It highlights how international AI companies are exploiting Kenyan workers to label their content, while also relying on resources like cobalt from the Congo to build the hardware for AI development. The article also mentions the recent revelation that the "AI" behind Amazon's "Just Walk Out" technology was actually manual labor performed by Indian workers. The author argues that the narrative around AI automating repetitive tasks and freeing up time for more intellectual and creative pursuits is a distraction from the underlying exploitation. They point out that the "democratization of access" to AI is only happening for a certain strata of society, and not for the laborers who built the foundation of the technology or those who are tasked with labeling the data. The article also highlights how generative AI is less accessible to those who do not speak Standard American English as a first language. The core message is that AI has become another tool to stratify people into those who must continue being exploited and those whose time can be freed up. The author argues that the conversation needs to go deeper beyond just lightening the load of white-collar workers, and instead focus on empowering all workers, especially those in the Global Majority, to prevent these novel technologies from perpetuating the same centuries-old cycles of class disparity.
Stats
"AI, for all of its potential applications, has become yet another funnel for outsourcing labor and draining resources from the Global Majority." "The 'AI' behind Amazon's shuttered 'Just Walk Out' technology was revealed to actually just be one thousand Indian workers manually reviewing videos." "Generative AI is inherently less accessible to those who do not speak Standard American English as a first language."
Quotes
"Democratizing access" has become one of the latest buzzwords to tout the benefits of AI. Of course, this democratization is only happening for a certain strata of society." "We can continue our conversations about how AI is making our lives so much easier while ignoring the voices outside of the room."

Deeper Inquiries

How can we ensure that the development and deployment of AI technologies actively empower and benefit marginalized communities in the Global Majority, rather than perpetuating existing power structures and inequalities?

To ensure that AI technologies actively empower marginalized communities in the Global Majority, it is crucial to prioritize inclusivity and diversity in the development process. This can be achieved by involving representatives from these communities in decision-making roles, ensuring that their voices are heard and their needs are addressed. Additionally, there should be a focus on ethical sourcing of materials, such as cobalt, to prevent exploitation of resources from vulnerable regions. Furthermore, initiatives should be put in place to provide training and education opportunities for individuals in these communities to participate in the AI industry, thereby creating pathways for economic empowerment and advancement.

What counter-arguments or perspectives might proponents of AI offer to challenge the critique presented in this article, and how might those be addressed?

Proponents of AI may argue that the technology has the potential to create efficiencies and improve productivity, benefiting society as a whole. They may also highlight the role of AI in driving innovation and economic growth. However, these arguments can be challenged by emphasizing the importance of considering the ethical implications of AI, particularly in relation to labor practices and resource extraction. By acknowledging the potential negative impacts of AI on marginalized communities and advocating for more equitable practices, a more balanced and responsible approach to AI development can be achieved.

In what ways might the ethical and social implications of AI intersect with other pressing global issues, such as climate change, resource extraction, and international labor practices, and how can a holistic approach address these interconnected challenges?

The ethical and social implications of AI intersect with pressing global issues such as climate change, resource extraction, and international labor practices in various ways. For example, the demand for resources like cobalt for AI hardware can contribute to environmental degradation and exploitation of vulnerable communities. Additionally, the outsourcing of labor for AI development can perpetuate inequalities and labor abuses in different parts of the world. A holistic approach to addressing these interconnected challenges involves promoting transparency and accountability in the AI industry, advocating for fair labor practices, and prioritizing sustainable sourcing of materials. By considering the broader impact of AI on society and the environment, we can work towards a more ethical and responsible deployment of AI technologies.
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