Duolingo Lays Off Contractors and Turns to AI

Duolingo Lays Off Contractors and Turns to AI

Language learning software maker Duolingo has laid off 10% of its contractors as the company turns to AI translators.

The company explained they will rely more on generative AI for content and therefore “no longer need as many people to do this type of work.” This comes as generative AI has gained traction the world over on the back of its transformative abilities, although it has also come at a cost to the job market.

AI saves other resources

Duolingo’s move is one of the latest signs that businesses are shifting some tasks to AI tools as they seek to optimize operations.

“We just no longer need as many people to do the type of work some of these contractors were doing. Part of that could be attributed to AI,” a company spokesperson told Bloomberg.

Earlier, an unnamed Duolingo contractor revealed on Reddit that the company had laid off a number of jobs.

“In December 2023, Duolingo ‘off-boarded’ a huge percentage of their contractors who did translations,” the contractor wrote.

“Of course this is because they figured out that AI can do these translations in a fraction of the time. Plus, it saves them money. I am just curious. As a user, how do you feel knowing that sentences and translations are coming from AI instead of human beings? Does it matter?”

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AI generating content

The contractor, who has been with the company for five years and works in a team of four, added that half the team was dismissed. This came as generative AI is now creating content and “translation courses” for the company.

“The two who remained will just review AI content to make sure it’s acceptable,” added the contractor.

But the company has another explanation. A spokesperson told PCMag that the dismissed contractors had “their projects wrapped up at the end of 2023.”

“While we do use AI for many different purposes at Duolingo, including the generation of some course content, human experts are still very involved in the creation of Duolingo’s content,” said the spokesperson.

“I also want to note that we attempted to find alternate roles for each contractor before off-boarding as a last resort.”

AI-human conflict

While AI has been touted as a game changer for businesses, there have been fears its adoption will also cause massive job cuts. Its ability to automate certain tasks means it can replace humans in certain areas of the value chain.

The Duolingo case sparked debate on Reddit and the X platform as users questioned whether the company was justified in embracing the technology at the expense of “human-led work.” And some users have already expressed disappointment in Duolingo.

“Is this why I have noticed an uptick of errors since the recent update?” questioned one user identified as Zheanna, while others agreed to seeing more errors “even for languages they’ve had for a long time, like French.”

Earlier last year, Goldman Sachs predicted that over 300 million jobs would be lost or diminished by the fast-growing generative AI. With AI adoption, companies will automate and innovate, enabling them to realize cost savings, according to Forbes.

A report released late in December revealed that 37% of business leaders indicated AI had replaced jobs in their organizations. Of the surveyed leaders, 44% are certain the technology will replace more jobs this year as more businesses across sectors embrace it.

The report also shows that employees believe 29% of their tasks are replaceable by AI.

According to CNBC, while positions like data analysis may be in line for automation, humans are still required to prompt the AI and “make sense of the results.”

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.