The Rise of the Mechanical Turk

While most workers today focus on their local unemployment rate and the limited jobs that seem to be available, there are major changes in the world of work that are reshaping the way we need to think about earning income.  The Internet is changing the economy from companies with lots of jobs, to platforms that offer the capacity to generate multiple streams of income.

An amazing example of this is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace that enables employers (Requesters) to coordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks that need human intervention to complete.  Tasks known as HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) may include choosing the best among several photographs, writing product descriptions, or identifying performers on music CDs. Workers browse among existing tasks and compete for them tied to a maximum monetary payment set by the Requester.

The Amazon application supports the emerging category of micro work, where complex informational questions are broken down into discrete tasks that require human intelligence and distributed to individuals who perform those tasks for small payments. Micro work is already being used by large-scale corporate customers to distribute micro tasks to workers globally. HITs being offered include podcast transcribing, rating products and image tagging. Other common HIT types ask Turkers to write or rewrite sentences, paragraphs, or whole articles. Workers are paid from one cent per word to $10 for a project. HITs that reward people for linking to or commenting on a blog, or friending a person on Facebook are also common. It’s estimated that Turks currently support 100,000 workers in 100 countries.

Micro work is becoming an emerging category of jobs that anyone with a mobile phone can do to make a living. It’s estimated that the micro work market could be worth several billion dollars within the next 5 years. As I’ve travelled around the world to 28 countries, I saw that globally, many people don’t HAVE a job, they DO a job. They have many employers (customers) and they earn a collective income instead of a salary. Essentially they are hunters AND farmers. They find customers and perform work from day-to-day with their income primarily tied to the numbers of customers they have. Their day involves doing work AND finding new customers.

Step back from the statistics and the news reports, and you’ll see that salaried jobs and positions are evolving to being tasks and projects periodically needed by many employers at different times. In our new global workplace, people’s capacity to deliver a product or service is now as basic as having a cell phone and access to the Internet.

While attending a party, I was introduced to a blind man who was a multi-millionaire. He sold tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.  He built a network of restaurants and small grocery stores where he sold vegetables for 50 cents that he imported wholesale for 25 cents.  His wealth came from selling his products to a large network of customers throughout the U.S. His secret to wealth:  selling a simple inexpensive product to a large number of repeat customers. His technology: a cell phone and a notebook. The lesson: Your income will be in direct proportion to the number of people you serve.

It’s never too late to be what you might have been. Rethink your mindset as it relates to YOUR world of work.

Ask yourself, “What would you like to do with the rest of your life?” It’s time to invest some time thinking about your lifestyle architecture. Decide what you want and then build a bridge to it. If you can become a millionaire selling tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, anything is possible.  Perhaps it’s time to change your thoughts to change your world.

Leave a Reply