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Duolingo lays off workers as it relies on AI for lesson creation

Duolingo logo and application on a phone

Duolingo is terminating contract writers and translators and replacing them with artificial intelligence tools.

Last year, the language-learning app carried out multiple layoffs, firing contractors responsible for creating lessons and devising translations. 

The move to dismiss human workers in favor of AI is among the most notable instances of companies prioritizing automation over human roles.

The exact number of jobs affected remains undisclosed.

However, Duolingo confirmed a reduction of approximately 10 percent of its contractors at the end of 2023.

The language-learning platform employs over 700 full-time employees.

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The decision to use AI instead of human contributors aligns with a broader trend since the release of OpenAI's ChatGPT, prompting various industries to explore AI chatbots. 

Businesses, particularly in marketing and online publishing, have increasingly adopted these bots to replace human writers, often impacting lower-paid entry-level positions.

Critics of AI point out its error-prone nature, necessitating human editors for corrections. 

Nevertheless, the potential for cost savings has motivated numerous companies to leverage AI for writing, translation, and graphic design tasks.

The move has stirred employee discontent, especially as the company initially assured workers that AI would not replace them. 

Workers expressed frustration, pointing to a contradiction between Duolingo's ethical image and the decision to cut pay and job security.

Duolingo spokesperson Sam Dalsimer defended the company's move, saying AI is a tool to enhance productivity and efficiency while affirming a commitment to human expertise. 

Dalsimer said Duolingo attempted to find alternate roles for each contractor affected by the layoffs.

However, former employees dispute this claim, saying they were not offered alternative positions before being let go.

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The use of AI has raised concerns about the declining quality of lessons, as evidenced by errors spotted by former workers post-dismissal.

Duolingo, with over 100 courses in 40 languages, has grown substantially.

The platform had 83.1 million monthly users by September 2023 and predicted revenue of up to $528 million for 2023. 

Duolingo started the AI integration in 2023, initially concealed from contractors. 

As the company gradually revealed its AI testing, contractors sensed a potential threat to their roles. 

The layoffs occurred in waves, initially affecting less popular language programs and expanding to more popular ones in December.

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