The Future of Work is “Turking for Uber” and you Won’t Like it

This article has been written by John Robb, in October of 2014 and published in HomeFree America. This article is nothing short of awesome if you’re looking to figure out where the employment market is going, in the next few years.

You guessed it, automation and artificial intelligence (in  my view) will replace wide swaths of workers who think they have “job stability”, in almost all industries.

John Robb’s view is shared by other authors but his article just nails it.

Here’s a simple reality that’s important to come to grips with.

80-90% of the work that is currently being done will be automated in the next 20-30 years.

In other words, bots (autonomous software) will do the work people used to do to earn a living.

Nobody seems to have a clue as to what most people will be doing for work when bots take their jobs.

I have a pretty good idea what they will do (and I have a pretty good track record on this type of stuff).  I can be sure of one thing.  It’s not going to be pretty.  In fact, I believe it is going to be damned ugly.

Here’s what you and your kids will be doing for work in the future, and you won’t be alone.

It’s what billions of people all over the world will be doing to earn their living.

NOTE:  This is what happens when you let an amoral marketplace and an incompetent government bureaucracy dictate your future instead of deciding it for yourself.

Most work will be turking.

What is turking?  It’s when human beings do the work that bots aren’t able to do yet, but they do it in a way a bot would do it.

NOTE:  Turking is a name taken from a contraption from the late 1700’s called the Mechanical Turk.   The Mechanical Turk was built as a hoax.  It was billed as a machine that was smart enough to play chess like a human being.  In reality, the machine was actually controlled by a human being hiding inside it.

You can see the start of this type of work at Amazon’s Mechanical Turk site right now.  There are thousands of jobs available right now and all you need to do is click a few links to get them.


The jobs are pretty basic data entry like this:

Turk job

It’s not hard, but you don’t get paid much to do it either.  However, this is just early days and Amazon isn’t alone in doing this.

There are lots of fast growing labor based companies in the “sharing economy” that are moving in this direction too.   Companies like UberTaskRabbit, and Samasource are heading in this direction too.

Although it may not seem like it now, this is what these companies will end up doing as they begin to replace workers with bots (for example: Uber will start to replace drivers with self-driving vehicles by 2019, when the first self-driving cars are starting to sell in volume).

The reason why this will occur isn’t that obvious.  It’s due to the way bots will eat jobs (and they will eat jobs in every industry from construction to medical to law to education to farming to government).

When bots take over jobs, they will force a restructuring of the workplace.   However, there will still be things that bots can’t do.

That’s what turking is for.  Turking services use human beings to do the portions of a job bots can’t do.

This isn’t going to be the creative and meaningful work people hope it will be, it will be exactly the opposite.

Additionally, these jobs will be built in a way that a bot would do it, so they can fit in with all of the other work already being done by bots.

Further, it also needs to be done in a way that a bot can learn from what the human beings do.

As you can imagine, training bots to do everything a human mind can do is going to be a HUGE industry.  An industry so big it is going to create some of the biggest companies in the world (Turk companies could employ hundreds of millions of people all over the world, making them 100x larger than the largest employers in the world today).

However, as bad as this is, it can get worse.

The turking vs. bot dynamic is going to create a a need for lots of retraining — as soon as a bot learns how to do the job, it forces the Turk into a new job.

My gut suggests that this “retraining” will be in the form of online education provided for a fee by the company providing the job.  However, if you don’t have the money, the company will offer you a micro-loan of the type we see ravaging the developing world right now.

NOTE:  Micro-loans are a “market based” humanitarian experiment that has become a scourge.  It’s done the impossible.  It found a way to turn hundreds of millions of poor people into perpetual debtors paying extortionate interest rates — locking them into debt based poverty forever.  Who knew that debt was a bad thing (we used to know this)?

You can guess what this dynamic will look like.

  1. Micro-loan offered at extortionate interest rate financing training for turking job.
  2. Turking job lasts a couple of months.  Earnings are garnished to pay loan.
  3. Bot eats job.
  4. New loan required for more training.   Cycle repeats.

Of course, this doesn’t have to be our future.

We can do better than the idiots in Washington and the parasites on Wall Street.



2 thoughts on “The Future of Work is “Turking for Uber” and you Won’t Like it

  1. This future is real but it’s our responsibility to choose the human intellect rather than the mechanical standardization with predefined personalization.

    I’m confident we’ll figure out how to re-structure society, work wise.

    We’ve done it with computer science so it should be doable for the next step.

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