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June 21, 2010

What a job – Amazon turk

Filed under: social change — neosurya @ 14:33

Recently read about a service being provided by Amazon – Amazon Mechanical Turk. In the words of this website:

The Mechanical Turk web service enables companies to programmatically access this marketplace and a diverse, on-demand workforce. Developers can leverage this service to build human intelligence directly into their applications.

What did one say you had to do at this job? The job involves a person to perform tasks called “Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs)“. Let not the word intelligence fool you; the jobs are more mundane than what ford asked his assembly-line workers to do. There are apparently HITs like rewriting of essays that require more work. In general though, this job requires  absolutely no skills.

In laymans terms, what it means is that there would be a huge number of people who sit in front of computers. These folks may be casual users like you, and they would have a window on which Amazon would display an image let us say every minute or so. You would need to perform tasks like – type the word displayed in the image, or type how many faces are there in an image. Amazon may pay you about half a cent for each correct answer. That is like 2 paise per answer. One may wonder what is wrong with it; good money at home – ghar bhaite acche paise mil rahe hai… And, you do not need a whole lot of skills for this. People earn sufficient money [1, 2]; sufficient to pay for their ipods, iphones or whatever other bills they have to pay. And apparently, this even provides work for African Refugees [1]. Heck, it has even helped find people lost at sea [1].

The jobs may seem very good in the short term. But I believe these jobs are a distraction for individuals who could otherwise have done better things with their time. Doing jobs like these is easy, but creates a dis-incentive to gain skills that are required for the long term.

In the culture we are encouraging, a human is either a candidate to perform a HIT, or a customer (An earlier post, where I talk about markets). As a species, we are losing it while trying to define the best (and easiest) way of furthering our gene pool. I am exaggerating here, but there is no better way to explain it.

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