Turkish Delight & The Slow Singularity

Mturk When I first heard of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, it was described to me as artificial-artificial-intelligence; the notion of wiring human intelligence into software is geekutopian, but strangely there are few great examples of mTurk applications…is this due to mTurk’s potentially severe challenge to labour laws?

Yesterday, I undertook my first HIT (Human Intelligence Task), earning $0.30 for adding a specific URL to my del.icio.us account and tagging it as gardening and cool…enough revenue to pay for my S3 bills! It took me about a minute, so working a 40-hour week would project out to around $8700/year… here in the UK, that’s definitely less than minimum wage.

How about some higher value mTurk applications…

  • My friend Ian has been unable to IM much in recent days due to his RSI. We joked that he should mTurk some people to impersonate his digital presences in Live Messenger, Twitter and email; an interesting twist on the Turing Test 😉
  • Recently I’ve had to fill out a number of governments forms, applying for public funding to sustain various startup ideas. I would love to mTurk these – they’re tedious and I’d love to fire them into an API and pay to get completed forms back for submission 🙂

A few months ago, while we brainstormed our thoughts on emerging technologies, Surj coined the term Proborg – Programmable Human/Software Hybrids- the next step from the collective intelligence of social software and prediction markets.

If basic human cognition can be monetised by mTurk, the implications in connected places where cognition is cheap could give rise to an interesting Proborganism; a half-billion Indian and Chinese kids, equipped with mTurk-fed OLPCs and desktop fabs – the Slow Singularity?


  1. I’ve off-shore’d all my blogging commitments to an Indian proxy service (called Proxyblog as it happens.) I’m far too busy for multiple postings every day. So I simply ported my ‘personal dataverse’ to a third party so they can learn and understand my preoccupations. Then I just sit back and let them blog in-the-style-of Me!


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