When users ask Alexa about their mysterious rash, or to turn off the lights, they might not expect someone else to be listening.
A.I. needs human input—and human reviewers—to become smarter. This week, a Bloomberg report pulled back the curtain on the team of people around the world who are tasked with listening to the Alexa queries of unsuspecting users. And the A.I. training team’s members number in the thousands.
The employees listen to recordings of people asking for Alexa to turn off the lights or play Taylor Swift. They transcribe the queries and feed them back to the Alexa software, making it smarter and more adept at grasping the way humans speak.
“It is normal to train this way, and a less sexy side of A.I.,” said Nico Acosta, director of product and engineering at Twilio Autopilot, a platform that allows developers to build bots and Alexa apps. “All speech engines need to be trained on real world audio, which implies the need to have a human transcribe it to continuously train the engine.”