Ethics and Tactics of Professional Crowdwork

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The ACM Magazine for Students


Computer Science


Faster, cheaper, smarter, and more efficient. These words might bring to mind the latest Intel ad, Moore’s law, or hopes for cell phone processors—silicon, copper, and computation. These circuits, however, are not only embodied in semiconductors. Increasingly, masses of people sit at their keyboards computing the answers to questions artificial intelligence cannot. Programmers access these computing crowds through APIs or a GUI on a service such as Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT). Working for a couple of dollars an hour, these anonymous computing workers may never meet the programmers who use them as part of their research and engineering efforts. Who are these mysterious workers? What kind of relationship do they have with the engineers who use them as human computation? How should we, as computing researchers, conceptualize the role of these people who we ask to power our computing?