Everyone knows Amazon. Or almost everyone. You can buy here pants, watches, vacuum cleaners, cat carriers and thousands of other goods. But Amazon activities are not limited to that.
Those who know cloud technologies probably know Amazon EC2, Amazon AWS, Amazon S3. It was exactly Amazon who became the leader in the field of cloud technologies by taking over 60% of the market. And it is not the limit. The company is constantly continuing to examine ways to enhance its activities in different direction, including the development and usage of an “artificial artificial intelligence”, or “human cloud” in other words.
The comeback of «Mechanical Turk»
A fake chess machine called “Mechanical Turk” was popular in Europe between 1770 and 1854. During its long carriere it managed to beat many great chess players and simply popular persons.
It is known the machine was fake: a massive corp and a system of mirrors were hiding the place where a chess player was hiding. However the machine was a very complicated and fine-tuned device especially if we take into considerations that it was constructed in 18th century.
Now pay attention: we present you Amazon Mechanical Turk!
«Mechanical Turk» is a network service designed for solving the issues in a following way: it distribute the task among a big number of users willing and able to solve them. Usually these are task which are difficult to describe with an algorithm. It could be data ranging with human criteria, podcast transcribing, copywriting, commenting on blogs, Facebook liking – the artificial intelligence cannot manage all these tasks and delegates it to the “human in the cloud”.
For every task performed the performer receives a small remuneration. But while tasks are often not complicated and do not require special knowledge you can make good money without leaving your place.
Monetization? Of course!
Mechanical Turk became available for users in 2005.
First it was used by Amazon company and the Turk almost died because of that: the number of tasks was too small. But since 2007 the new service is also used by external clients and the business took off.
One of the first clients was CastingWords company: Amazon offered to it the services of podcasts transcription. It was Mechanical Turk allowed the company to meet its objectives by employing an easy manageable cheap labor force.
Then the other clients came and the work has begun. Already in March 2017 one hundred thousand workers from hundred countries were using the service. Today there are over million users and around seven and a half thousand from them consider it as a main working place.
From marginals to trend setters
In the last few years “human clouds” became an effective business tool from a previously little understood technology and a way of making pocket money. Every year more and more companies from Fortune 2014 list join the pioneers of that technology. There were only four in 2014, but already in one year 11% of the richest firms learned to appreciate “human clouds”. According to estimates, the employers spend around 4 billion dollars only during 2014 on cloud workers.
Generally the work practice used by Amazon and other companies is not new. It is crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing (from an english word “crowd”) is delegation of functions to a third party without signing a labor agreement.
Wikipedia is built exactly on this principle. Now this unique online encyclopedia with the auditorium of 400 million people is the most informative in human history. It was created and edited by the whole crowd. It is a very interesting experience which was used even in the US space agency NASA. They developed a platform called NASA Clickworkers allowing to identificate different forms of Martian landscape and name it with assistance of volunteers from different countries.
By 2017 many companies understood the power and use of “human cloud” and moved from potential clients to real customers. IT market immediately responded to the demand. Now there are several models of cloud human management.
Little brothers of «Turk»
The model «Facilitator» allows the customers to receive detailed information about the perfprmers. For instance platforms-facilitators Elance and oDesk allow to publish private data, information about professional experience, information about previous occupation as well as determine skills after participation in different tests. Customers have an opportunity to interview potential employees.
The model «Referee» involves the availability of high skilled personnel and service providers. For instance one of the leading platforms-referees called crowdSPRING combines customers with a global community of creative designers. A customer can select best fitting performers on the basis of competition.
The model «Aggregator» is very similar to Amazon Mechanical Turk. It offers to customers an unified interface for mailing of the tasks to a big number of service providers.
«Yandex», russian search engine also launched a similar service called “Toloka”. Tasks performers are called “tolokers”. With assistance of this service the company collects users feedback on content. And uses it for machine learning afterwards. For instance a toloker has a task to determine was is displayed on the picture. It turns out to create a great number of tagged pictures. They are uploaded into a neuronal network so it can recognize by itself what is displayed on similar pictures and photos. In this way Yandex improves pictures search quality.
The number of “Toloka” users is growing monthly. The reason is the number of tasks could be executed with mobile phone: to check the addresses of organizations, to make pictures of signages, shop shelves and so on. 25 000 new users register at “Toloka” monthly. The total number of registration already reached half a million.
Legalization is the next step
One of the biggest problems in case of using the “human cloud” is that the performers legally remain in a grey zone and that means they are not secured by the law.
Lawmakers of every country will have to take care the process cannot be stopped anymore. More frequently the companies will employ temporary staff and the number of freelancers is growing. More frequently people will change fields of occupation and combine more than one job.
On the example of USA, where a third of active population participates in a gig-economy we can make a conclusion that in 5-10 years the majority of population of the planet will be a part of one or another “human cloud”.