By Bernadette Wilson, on Apr 29, 2020

How Autistic Workers Can Power Your Data Labeling

One of the most amazing things about the human race is its diversity. Much of the time, we get hung up on what makes us different from each other, making it hard to tell the characteristics that a person possesses or the skills they’re naturally wired for. Some people are musicians, others are math whizzes, and some are storytellers. Still, others are head and shoulders above most of the population at pattern recognition, attention to detail, and hyperfocus — autistic workers often share those special talents.

Top Candidates for Data Labeling

Because of their intelligence, focus, and meticulous work, people on the autism spectrum can be a perfect fit for data labeling and data entry jobs. Data specialists need the ability to work efficiently and accurately to produce high-quality data sets. Using a software application, they label data so that it’s recognizable by a machine. For example, an untrained machine learning model can’t look at a photo and tell that there is a traffic signal in the image. A data labeler must indicate the traffic signal in the photo, often by drawing a bounding box around it, then label it. The training data that data labelers prepare teach the machine learning model to recognize traffic signals in the future.

The process sounds simple enough, but it can be trying, especially considering that data sets have a minimum of about 1,000 examples. Furthermore, depending on what you’re trying to teach the machine learning model to do, a training data set can take 100,000 to 1,000,000 examples. It takes skill and care to create a data set that’s accurate and effective at enabling the machine learning model to produce desired outcomes. The data labeler needs the ability to focus on the task at hand, working systematically and consistently, with great attention to detail — just where autistic workers shine.

The data labeling processes conclude with testing to ensure the data set produces desired results in real-world situations, and if necessary, data labelers create new examples until the model performs to specifications.

Hiring Autistic Workers for Data Labeling

As more businesses and enterprises explore potential ways that artificial intelligence (AI) can benefit their operations, the demand for labeled data sets — and for data labelers who can expertly produce them — will skyrocket. However, organizations often find it difficult to hire data specialists due to the shortage of trained, skilled tech professionals in the labor market. Daivergent, however, has identified great potential among the autistic community to provide these in-demand services.

One challenge that is holding back some businesses and enterprises from hiring autistic workers is a lack of awareness. Autism is a spectrum, and people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are affected by it to varying degrees, so people unfamiliar with autistic workers may not have a good understanding of their capabilities.

Autistic workers seeking employment as data specialists are more than ready and able to meet the challenges of data labeling and data entry. Many have college degrees, extensive computer skills, and higher-than-average intelligence. It’s true that they may not be comfortable speaking at corporate events or networking. The good news for businesses and enterprises who need training data sets for AI and machine learning is that autistic workers are much more comfortable at a computer, e.g., as data specialists.

The Joy in Finding a Career

Autism Speaks reports that more than half of young adults are unemployed in the two years that follow graduation, and half of 25-year-olds with autism have never had a paying job. Data labeling gives autistic workers the opportunity to use their education, earn a salary, gain experience, learn new skills, and connect with others, both on and off the spectrum.

And, hiring autistic workers is also a solution for companies that need to find resources that will help them advance their AI and machine learning projects aimed at business outcomes, including greater productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

Although humans are diverse — and neurodiverse — with a wide range of talents and interests, we all share some commonalities. One is the joy and sense of accomplishment of finding what we’re good at and finding a place where we can contribute. Data labeling jobs can make those common desires a reality for autistic workers.

Opinions expressed by Daivergent contributors are their own.