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A new report from Semafor alleges that Silicon Valley darling and ChatGPT creator OpenAI has been making major moves to hire an “army” of outside contractors to better train a model how to code — an operation that could ultimately render entry-level coding jobs extinct.
The company, per Semafor, has brought on roughly 1,000 of these contractors — most of whom live “in regions like Latin America and Eastern Europe,” according to sources familiar with the matter — in the past six months. About 60 percent of those hired were reportedly brought to do data labeling work, while the other 40 percent are computer programmers tasked with making software engineering datasets to train OpenAI’s models on.
“A well-established company,” reads a translated Spanish-language OpenAI job listing posted by an outsourced recruiter, according to Semafor, “which is determined to provide world-class AI technology to make the world a better and more efficient place, is looking for a Python Developer.”
During the interview process, prospects are reportedly asked to complete unpaid five-hour-long coding exams that involve identifying basic coding problems and providing solutions, explaining their step-by-step thinking in written English. One of OpenAI’s products, Codex, is an AI-powered text-to-code generator designed to translate written word into functioning computer programs.
“They most likely want to feed this model with a very specific kind of training data,” an anonymous South American programming applicant told Semafor, “where the human provides a step-by-step layout of their thought process.”
Codex has been mostly trained on code taken from GitHub, a practice that has offered the model some success as an assistive program, autocompleting and spell-checking code with some proficiency. GitHub — notably owned by Microsoft, OpenAI’s financial overlord — even offers a Codex-powered “Copilot,” which is basically like Grammarly for programmers.
The work of these recently-hired contractors, however, would almost certainly take that type of AI to the next level.
Knowing what a line of code might look like is one thing. Having a nuanced understanding of why and how a program needs to be written is entirely another, and by quietly outsourcing human engineers’ thought processes, OpenAI seems intent on closing that gap.
And while these machines likely won’t be writing any high-level programs anytime terribly soon, it feels fair to say that programmers looking for lower-level coding work should be wary of job prospects in the near future. Sorry, y’all — we hate to see anyone else join that party.