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"[Science fiction] has become big business, where books are merchandised and promoted and distributed and placed on sale like slabs of bacon or cans of soup."
- Frederik Pohl

Ava  
  A piece of learning software.  

Anton has an unusual job; he provides input for an endlessly curious artificial intelligence used, as far as he can tell, to make inventories of the most obscure objects imaginable.

Antar had met children who were like that: Why? What? When? Where? How? But children asked because they were curious; with these AVA/Iie systems it was something else - something that he could only think of as a simulated urge for self-improvement. ..

She wouldn't stop until Antar had told her everything he knew about whatever it was that she was playing with on her screen… Once she'd wrung the last meaningless detail out of him, she'd give the object on her screen a final spin, with a bizarrely human smugness, before propelling it into horizonless limbo of her memory.

From The Calcutta Chromosome, by Amitav Ghosh.
Published by Avon Books in 1995
Additional resources -

Many people spend their time as servants to automated machines (like factory workers); how would you feel if asked to be a tutor for machines? Especially given the fact that once you had poured in everything that you knew, that teaching could be duplicated in seconds for as often as it was needed? Every moment you taught, you were bringing yourself closer to obsolescence.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Calcutta Chromosome
  More Ideas and Technology by Amitav Ghosh
  Tech news articles related to The Calcutta Chromosome
  Tech news articles related to works by Amitav Ghosh

Ava-related news articles:
  - Amazon Mechanical Turk - Humans Help Slow Computers
  - Smart Goggles Identify, Remember What You See
  - Kinect@home Needs Your Help Identifying Objects
  - AI Trainers: Assisting Artificial Intelligences
  - SCiO Scanner Wants You To Be Spock

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