But even more troubling is the fact that crowdsourcing platforms are hurrying along the automation of more and more of these tasks. Erik Brynjolfsson, a co-author of the popular book “Race Against the Machine,” cites image recognition as one obvious place where humans have helped robots replace them. Crowdworkers can collect pennies for identifying adorable cats in photographs, and then companies take that data and improve software that identifies adorable cats with a marginal cost that approaches zero. “We’re at a real inflection point in terms of artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Brynjolfsson said. “Things are speeding up.”How far can this process go, and how fast?
Indeed, many Turkers are actively helping to put themselves out of jobs. “Yesterday it was spam moderation,” said Panos Ipeirotis, a professor of business at New York University. “And today it’s transcriptions and translation. Once we help computers solve the problem of today, we move on to more challenging tasks. Maybe in 10 years, it’s something we think of as completely out of the range of computers right now. I see it happening, all the time.”