Amazon Mechanical Turk is an astonishing idea – an Artificial AI marketplace. Basically, there’s an API you can call to get humans to do tasks (oddly enough, they want to be paid). Currently, a big favourite for the tasks is transcribing podcasts. I can see that it would be a cheap way to truth a set of training data for AI systems, like number plate detection / recognition.
An artist has used the Mechanical Turk to acquire 10,000 hand drawn left-facing sheep and put them on a site for your viewing pleasure – plus, there was an exhibition of the collectable stamp sheets etc (you can buy the as stamp-sheets for only $20 a sheet). Given the images cost less than a cent each to acquire, he may be a bullshit artist.
The Turk is an example of what Wired calls Rise of Crowdsourcing – Remember outsourcing? Sending jobs to India and China is so 2003. The new pool of cheap labor: everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems, even do corporate R & D. It’s about the markets, people. These are markets for micro-transactions – micro in their repeatability, or micro in their value.