The original Mechanical Turk was a fake chess playing automaton from the 18th century – a mechanical illusion that allowed a chess master to hide inside the machine1. The term has more lately come to mean a service that can be used to place small tasks which require human intelligence (a major use is for enriching AI data, or in China for internet censorship) – a market of employers and providers (Turkers). Amazon provide such as crowd sourcing market place through the AWS service ‘Amazon Mechanical Turk‘2 as do others such as CrowdSource and RapidWorkers3.
The market is there – a 2015 World Bank Report4 estimated that there were 500,000 workers registered with Amazon Mechanical Turk and according to Alexa.com4 the site had 750,000 unique visitors in December 2015.
One issue centres around fees – validated work costs a lot for the employer and the worker gets very little. The enabling sites charge fees of up to 40% (looking at the Amazon site, it seems a nightmare to work out5);
Secondly, validation of work can be difficult. One method is to recruit 5-15 workers for each task – a very expensive overhead.
Another issue is that the pool of labour is constrained by a huge number of people not having access to a bank account.
Gems is a new project from Rory and Kieran O’Reilly looking to improve the whole process using the Ethereum blockchain. The aim is to provide a protocol for contracting workers to perform micro tasks and a mechanism to prove validity of the work do based on a solid economic supply and demand model with no central fees.
As a protocol Gems provides the basis for others to develop dApps to run on it – that makes it a highly extensible platform.
Overall the aims of the project are:
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© copyright 2018 Russell Weetch