The Crowdsourcing Scam

These labor markets depend on a kind of internalized offshoring. By fine-tuning an increasingly unstable employment regime—part of a countrywide “jobless recovery”—companies can focus on retaining and fairly compensating highly skilled (and highly sought after) employees, such as engineers, lawyers, programmers, doctors, and scientists. Meanwhile, less complicated work can be either farmed out to low-wage freelance and temporary workers or subdivided into smaller and smaller units of work, which are then widely distributed through a cloud-based labor market. The result is an extreme form of Taylorism: in boom conditions, workers have more tiny tasks than they can say yes to, but they acquire no skills, they learn nothing about the product or service to which they are contributing, they have no contact with other workers, and they have no chance to advance or unionize. They simply do the task offered to them, for a very low fee, and move on as quickly as possible. Imagine a factory in which each employee wears blinders and can see only the thing in front of him on the conveyor belt. An algorithm acts as the overseer, and this boss doesn’t miss a thing.

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