How much is one hour of human intelligence worth?
I spent one hour as a worker at Mechanical Turk a few weeks ago. The service is named after an 18th century mechanical chess-playing device housed in a wooden mannequin decked out in Turkish garb, built by a Hungarian nobleman. Naive spectators were told that the machine made decisions using artificial intelligence, when in actuality a chess master hidden inside actually did the thinking.
Amazon outsources work that computers aren’t able to do themselves, like writing blog posts and tag them afterwords or categorizing images. Some of the tasks pay only a few cents per minute, and I already felt that my qualities as a worker was highly overlooked. I decided to look for a task that could learn me something new instead of making me rich. One post by last.fm stood out because it would give you music recommendations based on a artist you claimed to like, and I thought this would be a good way to get to know new music. However, for some unknown reason I was rejected to do this work. Being disapproved to perform work worthy 50 cents didn’t feel great.
But, I didn’t give up because a computer insulted me. I came across a multiple choice test about how people use music to relax or energize themselves. The test was interesting to begin with because it asked about things I was looking into myself at that point for a school assignment. But the further I got into the 100 questions, I started to realize that the same questions repeated themselves but with slight changes to the syntax. I figured that this was so that they could test the consistency of the performer to see if the results were reliable or not. Realizing this made me so conscious about what I had answered earlier, and I don’t think I always responded my with a unbiased first reaction. Since so many of the questions lacked any context or room for explanation, I wasn’t able to communicate the insights I think would have been valuable. I ended up feeling that my answers became more and more random, and that they might as well save the 60 cents and use a robot for the task…