Have your friends signed up?
Okay, let's start with ...
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Invisible to most of us, an underclass of labor has evolved behind the artificial intelligence revolution — thousands of low-wage workers in the U.S. and across the globe who painstakingly inventory millions of pieces of data and images, giving power to AI programs. Some critics call them the new "sharecroppers."
Background: AI seems all-knowing, but actually it's only partly so. When it comes to the AI behind driverless technology, for instance, sensors can take fantastically granular pictures of streets and hazards of all types, and AI can be fed with the experience of every type of driving situation. But autonomous technology companies still need humans to inform the AI what it's looking at — to circle things like trees, stop signs and crosswalks.
The big picture: The winners are AI companies, which are mostly in the U.S., Europe and China. The losers are workers in both rich and relatively poor countries who are paid little.
How the companies are managing the labelers: Nathaniel Gates, CEO of Alegion, a Texas-based crowdsourcing platform, said his firm intentionally reduces the job of labeling to the simplest, most routine task possible. While this narrows a worker's chance to move up the skills — and wage — ladder, Gates argues that he is at least "opening new doors that were never available to them."
But some experts say such practices builds inequality into the AI economy.
James Cham, a partner with Bloomberg Beta, the venture capital firm, thinks that AI companies are gaming the system.
Big Tech has snapped up more than 50 AI companies since 2010, carving out another front in the nonstop war among the giants for AI talent, data and ideas, Kaveh writes.
The clamor reflects a scarcity of AI expertise, as we've reported in the past. But it also allows Big Tech companies to reinforce their advantage over the upstarts, each time making it harder for a new entrant to strike gold.
The big picture: Several of the top AI researchers and most lucrative products at leading tech firms came from acquisitions, according to data compiled by CB Insights.
Between the lines: The more these large companies buy up AI talent and software, the larger they expand the buffer between them and everyone else.
These companies haven't swallowed up the whole AI field. There are still plenty of startups with smart people and innovative products.
The bottom line: The front-runners' gravitational pull intensifies as they accumulate talent, data and computing power at a scale unattainable for academics or startups, such that the best minds in AI find it increasingly difficult to do boundary-stretching work elsewhere.
Go deeper: An AI feud between corporate research labs and academia (Axios)
Photo: Seth McConnell/The Denver Post/Getty
In an unmistakable sign of the times, Walmart has converted a closed, 139,000-square-foot Sam’s Club into a warehouse for online orders.
Erica writes: The new space is in Worcester, Massachusetts, reports Supply Chain Dive. It’s a perfect place for a fulfillment center, as three major highways cross through the city.
The big picture: Look for Walmart to bolster its warehouse network as it competes with Amazon on speedy shipping.
Go deeper: Dead malls are turning into warehouses
Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty
AI needs more "why" (Alexander Lavin — Forbes)
Dig in for a much longer trade war (Jonathan Swan — Axios)
In London, 96% facial recognition failure rate (Tim Cushing — Techdirt)
German businessmen to voters: resist populists (Guy Chazan, Olaf Storbeck — FT)
Nearly 20 years ago, cocaine washed up on this island (Matthew Bremner — The Guardian)
The Kardashian clan at the 2019 Met Gala. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images
In the nascent social media influencing industry, women are paid less than men — even though they outnumber men 3 to 1.
Erica writes: As younger consumers spend more and more time on social media apps, the power of influencers — models and celebrities with large followings — is also growing.
And although influencers are 75% female, the industry has a wide gender pay gap, Quartz reports.
The big picture: As we’ve reported, several U.S. industries are closing the pay gap. But in a few, including media and retail, the difference remains large.