For now, AI still needs HI - human intelligence

Fifteen years ago, I arrived in Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley, to do a documentary on outsourcing. One of our first stops was a company called 24/7, whose main business was answering customer service calls and selling products, like credit cards, for US companies half a world away.

The beating heart of 24/7 back then was a vast floor of young phone operators, most with only high school diplomas, save for a small pool of techies who provided "help desk" advice. These young Indians spoke in the best American English, perfected in a class that we filmed, where everyone had to practise enunciating "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers" - and make it sound as if they were from Kansas, not Kolkata.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline 'For now, AI still needs HI - human intelligence'. Print Edition | Subscribe