08.01.13

The chiseling and thefting economy

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 1:23 pm by George Smith

In addition to running sweatshop fulfillment warehouses in the United States in a drive to out Wal-Mart Wal-Mart, Jeff Bezos — global thinker, also has the virtual sweatshop franchise perfected in Mechanical Turk.

I’ve discussed Mechanical Turk before but have looked in again to view its progress.

Mechanical Turk also acts as the front-end for other crowd-sourced chiseling services based in the US. They tend to have names with the word “Crowd” in them, their websites advertising their millions strong global labor force working from the “human cloud.”

US crowd-sourcing business relies on the permission and ability to reduce compensation for intellectual labor to virtually nothing. The lousy conditions in the US economy have made this easier.

On Mechanical Turk you can actually find “jobs” that pay 2 to eight cents for which you will not be qualified, somewhat unbelievably. Many of the crowd-sourcing firms have installed standards for even penny jobs, Mechanical Turk rating requirements which mandate the worker to have already done one hundred, two hundred, or more “human intelligence tasks.”

To put this in perspective, you can easily waste two hours on Mechanical Turk and have completed only a couple jobs worth less than or about a dollar. By scale, then, it can take continuous days of work to reach a standard whereby one is “qualified” for an eight cent job.

Really!

There is no world where it is moral to pay people for gigs at a labor rate that is only a minute sliver of the minimum wage just because technology empowers it.

Invariably, if you go the websites of the crowd-sourcing firms using Amazon’s front end, they all brag about their magnificent, expert labor forces. Much of it seems to be human automation of the production of thousands of virtually meaningless small articles for anonymous placement on the web in a form of astro-turfing that pays about a tenth-of-cent or less a word. The companies will boast of their self-correcting, intelligent workforce, or display business awards which claim the firm has been judged one of the best places to work in its region.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is not totally inhuman corporate American tech industry excrement. Academicians use it to recruit volunteers for behavioral, social science and psychology experiments. These always involve answering questions or being asked what one thinks of a series of statements designed to elicit some response. In contrast to crowd-sourcing industry work, they don’t take a lot of time, are never engaged in activity of a shaky or dodgy nature, and pay — on the average — much better than the “Crowd-name” businesses.


A couple weeks ago the Los Angeles Times ran a piece on the so-called concierge and sharing economy being built by the likes of TaskRabbit.

The article insinuated TaskRabbit was actually successful in Los Angeles County.

I had my doubts, just as with anything involving the new sharing economy, so I signed on to have a look.

Keep in mind now that Los Angeles County is, next to Manhattan, probably the most densely populated part of the United States at 9.9 million.

I signed up to see all the “Tasks” here that didn’t involve having to go out and buy something for someone which rely on the “job creators” paying you for actual goods, groceries or food later through the service.

Today, TaskRabbit advertised 65 jobs around Los Angeles, ranging from taking someone’s furniture from here to San Francisco to writing short articles for someone’s lousy business blog/website to making an audio presentation of someone’s terrible vanity published e-book.

Yes, that’s 65 jobs, none of the amounts of payment established, all waiting to be bid upon until the poster is satisfied, if ever.

Tom Friedman, famously, on the sharing economy last week:

[Ordinary] people … will now come clean your home, coordinate key exchanges, cook dinner for you … There is a whole generation of people that donít want everything mass produced. They want things that are unique and personal.

Thereís more. In a world where, as Iíve argued, average is over ó the skills required for any good job keep rising ó a lot of people who might not be able to acquire those skills can still earn a good living now by building their own branded reputations …


Jeff Bezos — from the archives.

The sharing economy.

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