Amazon has recently launched a new service called the Amazon Mechanical Turk. They propose a casual labor system in which humans get payed to do simple tasks that are particularly difficult for computers to perform. You can view these “Human Intelligence Tasks” or HITs, and see how much money one might earn, here.
Some of the tasks include transcribing audio clips to text, finding urls containing specified information, labeling images with the appropriate tags, and even signing up for accounts on different websites. Amazon’s mechanical Turk is fascinating in the way it blends human and computer labor. The various logics required to complete each task are notable for being particularly human and requiring sentience. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk could function as a guide to certain pragmatic qualities of sentience.
On top of this, Amazon’s clear reference to the original Mechanical Turk is interesting and problematic. More soon on this…I’m thinking of both selling and buying some human labor as research for my project.