The current peak evolution of the Chinese Room, of the Mechanical Turk – both von Kempelen’s box and Amazon’s behemoth – is found in the even more starkly applied organisation of Taskrabbit, the ultimate people-as-a-service, an engineer’s dream version of the network which allows one to skirt any number of labour laws or ethical issues.
Taskrabbit, Uber, drones, high-frequency trading, austerity, and this: the natural endpoint of algorithmic capitalism. Cheap humans. Just-in-time people. A generation inside the machine, so drunk and indebted that it will be their lasting fame. An airbnb of the flesh. Impersonate the machine.
I’m reminded of these slides from Mary Meeker’s recent KPCB Internet Trends 2012 presentation:
In the world Meeker describes we’re all freelancers: predicated as value creators and visionaries; crafty and flexible people; personal assistants and bag carriers.
We’ll be ‘asset-light’ and morally ambivalent, our food and laundry delivered by a series of faceless worker drones, our lawns mown at the stab of a touchscreen.
In this Downton Abbey of the 21st Century our interaction with the serving class will be managed by smartphone, tablet, and a blink of an eye in our Google Glasses.
I want no part of this.
Images: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers