February 25, 2024

Duolingo Embraces AI Revolution, Lays Off Contract Workers

Duolingo, the leading language learning powerhouse, has taken a stride towards embracing AI in content creation as it laid off 10% of its contract workers. This marks a significant shift in the company’s strategy to integrate AI in generating content in a fast-paced environment.

Duolingo has 5.8 million premium subscribers and 24.2 million active users.

The strategic decision from Duolingo is set to define the way content is generated and shared on educational platforms.

The company clarified that the changes were necessary to make way for changes related to AI, and not solely as a result of technological developments.

Notably, the shift in strategy didn’t affect any full-time employees working with Duolingo. Evidently, the company is trying to secure alternative roles for the affected workforce before resorting to the last resort of “off-boarding”.

Duolingo Committed to Leverage AI to Boost Productivity

Luis von Ahn, the CEO of Duolingo, expressed the commitment of the company to make the best use of AI to enhance its productivity. In a shareholder letter dispatched in November, the CEO wrote, “Generative AI is accelerating our work by helping us create new content dramatically faster”.

Earlier in March, this motive of the company was demonstrated as they introduced “Duolingo Max”, the subscription tier backed by GPT-4 of OpenAI.

Now that the company has laid off a part of its workforce, it is expected to intensify the use of AI.  Tasks like curating acceptable translations, crafting sentences for courses, and expediting the correction of user error reports will get a boost with the use of AI.

The company asserted that humans will continue to play a significant role in cross-checking the work generated by AI. This reflects their stance that AI should boost efficiency and not replace the expertise of humans.

We are not swapping the expertise of human experts for AI… AI is a tool we are using to increase productivity and efficiency.Duolingo

Duolingo Joins Other Companies Incorporating AI

At a time when generative AI is transforming the traditional operational mechanism in several industries, Duolingo’s decision reflects a broader trend in the industry.

Other companies that cut their workforce in 2023 to make way for AI include Google, Amazon, and Meta.

In November, ResumeBuilder published a report that shows that 37% of surveyed companies replaced workers with AI in 2023. Another 44% of these companies are expected to lay off their employees in 2024.

With the latest decision, Duolingo joins the ranks of companies like Chegg, an education technology firm that slashed 4% of its workforce to incorporate AI in its operations.

The ripple effect of generative AI extends sectors beyond education. Even Dropbox, the file storage service, and tech giants like IBM are making strategic adjustments in the wake of AI transformation.

Arvind Krishna, the CEO of IBM, stated that the company had paused hiring candidates for roles that might be threatened by automation. He further stated that the purpose of AI was to create more jobs compared to the ones they displace.

Last April, Dropbox reduced its workforce by 16% as it integrated AI. The evolving trend shows that companies are trying to maximize the potential of AI in different areas of their operations rather than trying to curtail costs.

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