Labouring Towards Artificial Stupidity

Just when I thought I was getting ahead of the curve with my early discovery of ChatGPT, along comes Mechanical Turk and I realise that once again I am actually about twenty years behind contemporary knowledge.

Whether Mechanical Turk means to you an eighteenth-century chess-playing automaton, a twenty-first century Amazon crowdsourcing marketplace, or diddly squat will probably depend upon your age, economic circumstances, and general inquisitiveness.

For myself, I had heard of the chess-playing automaton––a mechanical hoax, where a human hid inside a machine to fool a fee-paying public––but, perversely, it was the Amazon crowdsourcing marketplace, which got me more intrigued.

The concept of Amazon’s MTurk platform is to distribute to a global workforce ‘simple and repetitive tasks’, which can be better performed by humans than by a machine.  Instinctively, there seemed to be something back to front about this concept.  Isn’t the whole purpose of machines to save humans from performing ‘simple and repetitive tasks’, so that we can spend our time doing something more creative and interesting instead?

Like the original Mechanical Turk chess-playing automaton this propels us into a world of humans mimicking machines mimicking humans.  Amazon call it artificial artificial intelligence.

For me, it begs the question, who is really in control here, the human or the machine?  Or the multinational?  Will the robot of the future be sitting around a swimming pool with its feet up sipping a martini, while the humans scuttle around after it doing menial tasks?  To labour towards this dystopian vision of the future would be an exercise in artificial artificial stupidity.

© Simon Turner-Tree

There is nothing artificial about Simon Turner-Tree.

Despite not always feeling in tune with Amazon, Simon Turner-Tree still sells his books on them.

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