by Phil Jones
The brutal truth behind our automated futures and the new world of work
We are told that the future of work will be increasingly automated. Algorithms, processing massive amounts of information at startling speed, will lead us to a new world of effortless labour and a post-work utopia of ever expanding leisure. But behind the gleaming surface stands millions of workers, often in the Global South, manually processing data for a pittance.
Recent years have seen a boom in online crowdworking platforms like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Clickworker, and these have become an increasingly important source of work for millions of people. And it is these badly paid tasks, not algorithms, that make our digital lives possible. Used to process data for everything from the mechanics of self-driving cars to Google image search, this is an increasingly powerful part of the new digital economy, although one hidden and rarely spoken of. But what happens to work when it makes itself obsolete. In this stimulating work that blends political economy, studies of contemporary work, and speculations on the future of capitalism, Phil Jones looks at what this often murky and hidden form of labour looks like, and what it says about the state of global capitalism.