Finland Is Using Inmates to Help a Start-Up Train Its Artificial Intelligence Algorithms

March 28, 2019, 9:46 PM UTC

Here’s one prison job you won’t find on Orange Is the New Black.

Inmates in Finland are working to train artificial intelligence algorithms as part of their prison work. There are 10 workstations between the prisons in Helsinki and Turku, a town located two hours northwest of the Finnish capitol, according to a blog post from Finland’s Criminal Sanctions Agency.

“The Criminal Sanctions Agency has been constantly developing prison work, focusing on the rehabilitative aspect of the work and on training prisoners in the skills needed in future working life,” the agency said in the blog post.

The data the inmates are helping to classify is for a company called Vainu, which is creating a global database to help companies find contractors, according to a report from The Verge. A typical work day involves reviewing pieces of content collected from social media and around the Internet.

“The prisoners participating in the work activities answer simple questions such as: ‘Does this article talk about a business acquisition?’ The same question is repeated several times for different people, which produces high-quality material for training Vainu’s artificial intelligence,” the Criminal Sanctions Agency website said.

The work is supposed to benefit Vainu, while also providing prisoners with new job-related skills that could help them successfully re-enter society after they serve their sentences.

Finland has a track record of taking a progressive approach when it comes to experimenting with new ideas for the betterment of society. The country previously tested universal basic income payments to a group of randomly selected, unemployed citizens. The recipients, who were between the ages of 25 and 58, received about $690 per month to help them with their employment. The end of the experiment was announced last year, however the government has plans to check in on the recipients ten years from now to learn about any potential long-term effects of the program.