MY GRUELLING DAY AS AN AMAZON MECHANICAL TURK
Jeremy Wilson shares his experience of working in Amazon’s ‘digital sweat-box’.
Launched in 2005, Mechanical Turk takes its name from The Turk, an eighteenth-century chess-playing “machine”. The Turk appeared to beat its opponents using a complex clockwork mechanism; in fact, a chess master was hidden inside, pulling the strings…
The business is straightforward. Employers can use the platform to offer simple tasks that still require carbon-based life forms to complete and reach a potential workforce of anyone with an internet connection, in return for a small wage. When a Mechanical Turk worker, or “Turker”, accepts a task, they complete it within an allotted time then wait for the employer to transfer the wage into their bank or Amazon account.
Typically, tasks pay from a couple of cents to a couple of dollars. Studies suggest that Turkers can earn between $1.20 and $5.00 an hour for this independent contract work.
In the eight years since its creation, Mechanical Turk has grown into a huge platform: it now has over half a million workers, of which fifty per cent are from the United States and forty per cent are from India.