Sunday, November 07, 2010

Mechanical Turk

Last night Steven opened my eyes to modern slave labor at Amazon Mechanical Turk. It's a website, connected to your Amazon account, where you can work for hours and earn approximately $1.00 per hour. I have just been sitting here translating 3-5 second sound clips. I wish I had timed it but at .02 cents each, I have now earned .32 and my dashboard says I have 31 more "hits" pending on approval.

While I am not earning enough to send my son to college, somehow doing this is a little bit addictive, in a balloon popping video game sort of way. I could see myself sitting here losing time, doing these stupid tasks for no reason other than I get great satisfaction finishing a task and hitting "submit."

I wonder what is a Mechanical Turk and is that a racist term for slave labor? According to Wikipedia, this type of hiring of contract labor is called "crowdsourcing" which enables companies to hire other people to do labor that computers can't do. The term comes from "The Turk" which was an 18th century chess automaton. It was revealed as a scam, not a machine as advertised, with a hidden chess master at the controls, something like the Wizard of Oz. Was the Oz Turkish? Perhaps.

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