Amazon Looking For Cheap Human Brain Power

from the paying-pennies! dept

Amazon surprised a lot of people a few years ago when they decided to jump into the search space with A9. However, it looks like they might not be done copying Google ideas (and, to be fair, Google copied Amazon's book scanning stuff). The latest, according to Metafilter and Google Blogoscoped is that Amazon has launched the Amazon Mechanical Turk. The name is a reference to the famous hoax mechanical chess player from the 18th century that was actually controlled by a hidden chess master. In this case, it sounds like a modification of Google Answers, which has been around for years. Basically, if you have a specific task that isn't easily automated, you ask people to do it for you, at a set price. At the moment of this posting, it looks like the few tasks available are simply Amazon looking for extremely cheap labor in writing product descriptions or picking the "best" photo for A9's blockview system. Still, these types of business models always intrigue me. For all the talk of automation, there are always points at which the automation breaks down and a human is needed. It's that concept that helps those of us at Techdirt make a living, by recognizing that sometimes you really do need a human expert layer to make sense of all the junk that automated systems give you, creating way too much information overload. Of course, Amazon isn't the only company to look to human power to solve problems. Just a few days ago, a mobile search engine launched that would use voice recognition as much as possible, but then defaults back to human help to handle the rest. Update: There have been some questions about how real the Mechanical Turk is, and whether it's really associated with Amazon. The comments at Metafilter seem to indicate that it is real, but sometimes it's tough to tell. It's not April 1, is it?
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