Originally posted on Mashable by Jack Morse
Amazon’s Alexa can feel like a form of magic. By merely speaking it into the universe, users can conjure up-to-the minute weather reports from far-off lands, summon physical goods to be same-day rushed to their doors, and even get medical advice. But as with most magic tricks, when it comes to Alexa, it’s worth paying attention to just who, exactly, is behind the curtain.
Because, despite what many people may assume, with Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo, there is very much someone behind the curtain. Or, to be more precise, many someones. As with most forms of modern “smart AI,” Alexa depends on real humans listening in on a share of conversations and transcribing those requests.
Amazon calls this “supervised machine learning,” and rather blandly describes strangers being paid to creep on its customers as “an industry-standard practice where humans review an extremely small sample of requests to help Alexa understand the correct interpretation of a request and provide the appropriate response in the future.”
Put another way, your personal questions, doubts, and fears spoken aloud as if no one was listening may have found themselves in the hands of a group of people paid to do exactly that…
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