For less than $1 per hour, workers in Nairobi, Kenya, trained OpenAI’s GPT models, and they walked away shaken by the harrowing content they taught the software to avoid

Richard Mathenge felt he’d landed the perfect role when he started training OpenAI’s GPT model in 2021. After years of working in customer service in Nairobi, Kenya, he was finally involved in something meaningful, with a future. Yet while promising, the position left him scarred. For nine hours per day, five days a week, Mathenge led a team that taught the model about explicit content, presumably to keep it away from us. Today, it remains stuck with them.

While at work, Mathenge and his team repeatedly viewed explicit text and labeled it for the model. They could categorize it as child sexual abuse material, erotic sexual content, illegal, nonsexual and some other options. Much of what they read horrified them. One passage, Mathenge said, described a father having sex with an animal in front of his child; others involved scenes of child rape. Some were so offensive Mathenge refused to speak of them. “Unimaginable,” he told me. 


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