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Berkeley burrito-delivery bot purported to be using 'advanced neural network' is actually remotely piloted by Colombians, who are paid $2 per hour.

sfchronicle.com/business/artic

Welcome to capitalism, where tech startups fake 'genius' AI using hidden POC sweatshop labor in a 'black box' to rake in profits.

"AI, games, Amazon, it's all made with magic! In our magic black box!"
"What's in it?"
"Nevermind, just eat your kale salad and let's do yoga!"
*Open box, find a sweatshop*

@silverspookgames Yep, here in Serbia I've talked to people who work or have applied to positions to be the "human AI". It's a highly demanding job, yet underpaid as hell.

@dona I bet. Yeah that's super messed up but don't doubt it for a sec.

@polymerwitch Yeah, I actually studied cognitive computing, and much 'Artificial Intelligence' especially nowadays is a scam capitalizing on mass-misinformation through sci-fi pop culture and tech hype.

Jeff Bezos' was claiming to have 'advanced AI' determining Amazon delivery payouts. Turns out, it was just stealing deliverers tips to pay them often sub-minimum wage, making Bezos' more billions.

@polymerwitch This is the incredible Amazon algorithm:

If
Wage + Tip > Minimum Wage
Then
Give Tip To Jeff Bezos

Man, that was hard entrepreneurial big brain work! Algorithmic wage-theft is tough stuff

I'm gonna need my $150,000,000,000 now, Silicon Valley capitalism 'meritocracy'.

@silverspookgames that kind of business model / scam is so common there's a name for it, Mechanical Turk... and Amazon have monetised it, because of course they would

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Turk

@thamesynne @silverspookgames Mechanical Turks are one of my favorite concepts, and I fully expect that future generations will find out that most of our automation relied heavily on that process and will mock our naivete.

@silverspookgames This problem began in earnest with Amazon Turk, but I have the feeling this shit is just getting started… 🤮

@silverspookgames Jesus fucking Christ, the article is so blase about it, too. Literally nothing about how exploitative it is, it's all praise for finding a cost-effective solution and shit about how cute the robots are.

@silverspookgames you would think that, even if the paper ignored the exploitativeness of it all, that they would have called the firm out for having done something that isn't nearly as technically innovative as it appears to be at a glance. This isn't "robot delivery service," it's drones with sandwiches.

I guess they are opting for a "just the facts" reporting approach. What bullshit.

@jordan31 @silverspookgames it's in quotes for a reason. The article is clearly written in a way that purposely glosses over the fact that no technological innovation has been made here.

But additionally, claiming "neutrality" in the face of injustice and exploitation is being complicit with it.

@silverspookgames "... and you don't have to tip." Really telling last sentence in that article.

@silverspookgames

But if you look into the CEO's history the dude is actually Colombian. Maybe he wants to provide some work back to his country, in addition to the costs savings.

Also if you actually look at the team a number of them seem to have LATAM, even Colombian roots https://www.kiwicampus.com/team

@hcs @silverspookgames just because the CEO is Colombian doesn't mean they're not exploiting cheap labour in Colombia.

They might also be doing it to try and create jobs in Colombia, the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. The issue is how much upward mobility will these jobs create?

@gid @silverspookgames

The entire team is LATAM / Colombian (just from a glance, I didn't check each all profiles).
@gid @silverspookgames

And with that, it is reasonable to infer that they will hire across both vertical and horizontal roles not only because of culture/team fit but also giving back to the country various jobs and opportunities ... even if the AI idea is not perfect.
@gid @silverspookgames

"Kiwi Campus grew out of a courier delivery service started by Felipe Chávez, the CEO, in 2015 in Bogotá."

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiwi_Campus

So uhhh this is some fake outrage of a Colombian startup with Colombian CEO, Colombian engineers and Colombian employees...

@hcs @silverspookgames I don't think it's fair to call this fake outrage. The company claims to use "advanced AI" for its service, but they're revealed to be using cheap labour in Colombia. That's exploitative, regardless of how many Colombians also hold engineering/director positions there.

Maybe there will be upwards mobility in the company, but previous experience when I've seen this makes me skeptical.

@gid @silverspookgames Anyway I'm out. If you are still actually that concerned, reach out to them directly as they are on social media. I think the Medium post has names in full, if someone wants to 'investigate' this.
@gid @silverspookgames

The founder mention that that their approach is based on Parallel Autonomy.

See

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7989224

> Current state-of-the-art vehicle safety systems, such as assistive braking or automatic lane following, are still only able to help in relatively simple driving situations. We introduce a Parallel Autonomy shared-control framework that produces safe trajectories based on human inputs even in much more complex driving scenarios, such as those commonly encountered in an urban setting. We minimize the deviation from the human inputs while ensuring safety via a set of collision avoidance constraints.

---

Also this guy echoes my thoughts exactly:

> I apologize for the original outrage, but Ive got to say, that SF Chronicle article about Kiwi really presented your company in a negative light. It focuses on the topic as mere “labor savings” rather than the positive human impact you are having on students in your country

> I highly recommend you reach out to the SF Chronicle to provide clarification and have them update the article. They have a large readership, and I know that I’m not the only student at Berkeley (and beyond) who became concerned after reading it.

---

Also from the CEO's account:

> For most of the students Kiwi is their first professional experience, 20% of them get promoted to different roles among the company, take into account there are few AI & Robotics startups in LATAM. Happy to keep you in the loop about our social mobility progress.

(note that, IMO, AI in tech is pretty new so getting experience in this field is a big plus. I'm from Qld/Australia and I can't even recall opportunities to work on an AI project, let alone one with visibility in the US).

@hcs (removed Silver Spook Games from replies because they've not responded to the thread and I'm wary of spamming them) you're right, and thanks for taking the time to discuss this. My initial assumption that this was an example of Silicon Valley exploitation was wrong. I'll do more research before jumping to conclusions like this in the future.

@silverspookgames Honestly, if they paid me 3 € an hour to listen in on people and feed lines to alexa as a part-time job, I'd think about it.

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