The Amazon Mechanical Turk that represents a potential revolution


Amazon has just announced the Amazon Mechanical Turk, which in my opinion will bring great advantages to both the web, and to a lot of people, potentially representing the livelihood of millions soon. The AMT is a web interface linking meatspace with cyberspace at the backend. We are accustomed to seeing people in front of web terminals, and know that there are also humans programming web servers, but I think this is the first time that we scale the interface at the server side, where millions will be able and program the computers’ responses. What is trivial for humans, is often difficult for computers, so there is space in between for an arbitrage of its value. When you manually re-type into a computer a piece of information that at any point in time was already in an other computer, you are acting as a slow, wet interface between the two systems. Now you have the chance of being paid for it.

The possibility of aggregating both the buy-side and the sell-side of this economy is what makes Amazon unique. The examples that are online today are fairly limited, and I am sure that a lot of people won’t see the power of the system. Amazon also makes an API available that lets programmers build the HITs (Human Itelligence Tasks). The emerging behavior of a website that is HIT-powered is called by Amazon the “artificial artificial intelligence” (a lot of people wrote this mistakenly with a comma, while it is a negation of a negation, meaning that at the end you end up with true intelligence).

The current system of rewarding the tasks is a fixed payment, while I think that it should be a reverse Dutch auction, or a mixed model of different payment possibilities. I am looking forward to being able to create, and consume HITs, and to a healthy market in them in both developed and developing nations that unmetered broadband will bring along.

  • TAD

    Hey David,

    It’s nice to see someone else feel the same way about the Turk. I think it has incredible potential especially once it (or something like it) is available outside of the US. I really like the whole idea of Artificial Artificial Intelligence!

  • You already can submit HITs that you solve, even if you are outside of the US. I have. When they are approved, and you get the credit you earned, you can either transfer it to a US bank account (ie. can’t if you are outside of the US), or you can use it for purchases on Amazon. The next step must be that of transfers to PayPal, for example.

  • Scott Rafer spoke about the collective intelligence resembling more and more artificial intelligence at a panel discussion at Accelerating Change 2005. You can listen to it on IT Conversations.
    http://www.rafer.net
    http://www.itconversations.com/shows/detail715.html