Hottest job in China's hinterlands: Teaching AI to tell a truck from a turtle

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Their company, located in a city near their parents' village in Henan province, provides an essential early service in the AI process, labeling images and videos to help make computers smarter. Before a self-driving car can learn to avoid hitting people or trees, it must learn what people and trees look like -- by digesting thousands of images labeled by thousands of humans. Demand for labeling is exploding in China as large tech companies, banks and others attempt to use AI to improve their products and services. Many of these companies are clustered in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but the lower-tech labeling business is spreading some of the new-tech money out to smaller towns, providing jobs beyond agriculture and manufacturing. The science is mired in controversy in China, where the ruling Communist Party is using AI to help it identify and track people in mass-surveillance programs, most prominently in the largely Muslim province of Xinjiang, according to Human Rights Watch.

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