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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #257 (Jan) - unionism, E-work: the Amazon Mechanical Turk (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Sun, 21 Feb 2016 11:53:50 +0200

Do you believe that in the digital economy, all the most repetitive, monotonous and stupid duties are performed by robots? Nay. What are human beings who, for 3 francs 6 under, do this work. Amazon is at the forefront of this system that for its part, the multinational has called Mechanical Turk. ---- Originally, the "Turk" (see fig. Below) is an automaton which was presented in all the courts of Europe in the late eighteenth century and was known to play chess and defeat opponents flesh and bone. The trick was that players who thought they were dealing with a PLC faced actually a dwarf hidden inside the mechanism which operated the puppet's arms. ---- Amazon was inspired, ironically, to describe these small invisible hands sold to employers: they are actually humans who perform tasks which one is expected to fall to robots, but deeply inhumane tasks no algorithm is able to perform effectively, HITs, Human Intelligence Tasks.

The Mechanical Turk, created by Amazon in 2005, brings together a half million workers spread over 190 countries, and constantly offers some 350,000 fragmented tasks to accomplish. The German trade union federation IG-Metal l aired some testimonies that give an idea of the reality of this work: "I work on Mturk".

So this testimony collected from a Turker states-unien, November 3, 2015:

I can work as hard as possible and do my best, deliver results of the highest quality, yet not being paid if an employer decides not to pay me for some reason. I can see my work stolen by a con man, and there is nothing to do against that. I can see my account suspended at any time, without reason, and there is nothing I can do. I'm in a state of constant vibration, stress and therefore paranoid, because finally, I am powerless.

Marco (AL northeast Paris)

Read two other articles on e-working:

The uberisation, a new era of exploitation
The Turkers against the beast e-world

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