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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

AI may seem untethered from humans, but it actually hinges on data produced by people — and gathered by companies.

Why it matters: Information about who you are, what you own and how you behave will only become more coveted in the coming years, because they are the chief drivers of decision-making algorithms, voice assistants and self-driving cars.

What's going on: If a machine is to act like a human, it must first learn how humans act. For that, it needs countless examples of how people would respond to various situations.

  • This process, known as "supervised learning," is how AI systems have become capable of identifying certain problems in medical scans more accurately than human doctors, or of driving a car without human input.
  • When you use Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, Facebook's News Feed or Tesla's Autopilot, the companies are watching your every move, and using your behavior to keep training their products.

Who trains AI systems? Sometimes, it's grad students in a research lab; frequently, it's workers on crowdsourcing sites or in cubicles in Malaysia or China, paid mere cents for every new datapoint they create.

  • But often, it's you — and you're working for free.
"The data-driven world will be always on, always tracking, always monitoring, always listening and always watching — because it will be always learning."
IDC white paper, "The Digitization of the World."

Go deeper

Colin Powell dies from COVID complications at 84

Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capital Concerts

Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, died of complications from COVID-19, his family announced Monday. He was 84.

Driving the news: The Powell family said in a statement that he was fully vaccinated. "We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment."

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP senator calls for senility test for aging leaders

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an "Axios on HBO" interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78 ... Speaker Pelosi, 81 ...  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 70 ... and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 79.

Ina Fried, author of Login
4 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO blames predecessors for manufacturing woes

Axios on HBO

When it comes to Intel's recent manufacturing problems, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger places the blame squarely on his predecessors — many of whom he notes were not engineers deeply steeped in chip technology, as he is.

Why it matters: Gelsinger has announced a broad plan to reinvigorate Intel by doubling down on manufacturing. However, the strategy depends on the venerable semiconductor giant recovering from recent stumbles.