**Google’s Bard: Behind the Scenes of AI Chatbot Training**
Google’s Bard artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot has gained widespread popularity for its quick and confident responses to a wide range of queries. However, what many users don’t realize is that behind this AI technology are thousands of outside contractors who work under rigorous conditions to ensure the accuracy and quality of the chatbot’s answers. These contractors, employed by companies like Appen Ltd. and Accenture Plc., work for low wages with minimal training while facing tight deadlines. This article examines the role of these contractors in training the AI chatbot, the concerns they have raised about their working conditions, and the impact on the quality of Google’s AI products.
**Increasing Workload and Complexity**
As Google competes with rival OpenAI in the AI arms race, the workload and complexity of tasks for Google’s contract workers have increased. Without specific expertise, these workers are expected to assess answers on a wide range of topics, including medical dosages and state laws. The workers are given convoluted instructions with short deadlines for auditing answers, some as short as three minutes. This high-pressure environment has led to fear, stress, and underpayment among the contractors, which affects the quality and teamwork necessary for improving the AI chatbot.
**Concerns over Working Conditions**
Contractors working on Google’s AI products have expressed concerns about their working conditions, which they believe negatively impact the quality of the chatbot’s responses. Some workers have warned that the speed at which they are required to review content could result in the AI chatbot becoming a faulty and dangerous product. Google has positioned its AI products as public resources for health, education, and everyday life. However, the contractors feel that their working conditions hinder their ability to deliver accurate and unbiased responses, undermining the quality of the chatbot.
**Google’s Emphasis on AI**
Google has made AI a major priority throughout the company, rushing to integrate the technology into its flagship products after the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The company opened up Bard to 180 countries and territories, introducing experimental AI features in search, email, and Google Docs. Google’s claim of having access to the breadth of the world’s knowledge positions it as superior to competitors. The company emphasizes its responsible approach to building AI products, including rigorous testing, training, and feedback processes. However, the contractors play a crucial role in improving AI accuracy, which raises concerns about their working conditions affecting the quality of Google’s AI offerings.
**Training and Assessing AI**
In preparation for public use, Google’s contract workers have been receiving AI-related tasks since January. They are tasked with comparing answers, rating their helpfulness and relevance, and assessing verifiable evidence. The workers follow guidelines that analyze answers for specificity, freshness of information, coherence, and more. They are responsible for ensuring that the responses do not contain harmful, offensive, or misleading content. However, the guidelines explicitly state that workers do not need to perform a rigorous fact check, and minor inaccuracies may be overlooked. This raises concerns about the chatbot providing incorrect information and exacerbating the problem of misleading details from AI tools.
**High-Stakes Topics and Grading**
Google’s AI products often involve high-stakes topics, such as determining medication dosages. Raters are expected to use evidence to assess the accuracy of information. However, the workers claim to be graded in mysterious and automated ways, with no direct communication channel with Google. They must provide feedback through comments on individual tasks while working under time pressure. The process leaves workers feeling unheard and unsure of how their performance is evaluated. Google disputes workers’ claims of being flagged by AI for exceeding time targets but acknowledges that performance reviews are handled by Appen, the contractor’s employer.
**Contractors and Other Tech Companies**
Using human contractors to improve AI products is not exclusive to Google. Other tech giants, including Meta Platforms Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and Apple Inc., also rely on subcontracted staff for content moderation, product reviews, technical support, and customer service. These workers are vital in creating labeled data required to train AI models. However, their low-paid labor raises questions about the ethics and fairness of the AI industry.
Google’s AI chatbot Bard has become a popular tool for users seeking quick and accurate responses. However, the contractors who work behind the scenes face challenging working conditions, affecting the quality and accuracy of the chatbot’s answers. The increasing complexity and workload, as well as the lack of expertise and limited training, contribute to the contractors’ fears and stress. Their concerns about working conditions and the impact on product quality highlight the need for improved standards and protections for AI workers. As the demand for AI technology continues to grow, addressing these issues becomes crucial for the ethical and responsible development of AI.