The “job of the future” is one that’s expected to generate more than $10 billion in revenue by year 2020, but many Americans unfortunate enough not to get a job are getting taken advantage of and exploited.Orzare

One such way is through the use of ‘microwork’ or simultaneously-learned tasks, which usually consist of complex multi-step machine learning algorithms and aren’t paid properly.

1. Microwork Defined

Microwork is a new kind of “job” that some companies like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) have defined as work performed by human intelligence that is both highly paid and urgently needed.

 Some examples would be to transcribe audio, edit videos or photos, or create text from images. The tasks usually require the person doing them to have a free account on MTurk and a high-end computer connected to the internet for smooth operation.

Companies like MTurk are believed to be legitimate services that just need workers with decent computer skills but sometimes stuff gets complicated as some tasks are limited in number, so people end up competing against each other for a few online job opportunities. That’s where the problem begins.

2. The Hard Part

Many people who sign up for MTurk and other online labor markets like Freelancer, Odesk and Elance have to wade through countless listings of tasks that are usually very similar, but the differences are in their payment rates and requirements.

 Workers must be able to handle unfamiliarly complex work that requires their time, but not necessarily pay them properly or offer hours flexible enough to allow them to handle personal responsibilities.

Labor contracts generally tend to be written in a way that favors businesses and doesn’t help workers. Because the legal system is still catching up with tech-powered contracts, there are still many loopholes that unscrupulous companies use to exploit those desperate for money. 

In fact, some people have already taken the route of modifying their moral code and taking advantage of these loopholes.

3. Substitution and Data Mining

One problem may arise when an employer offers two projects that don’t involve any “human intelligence” at all but in reality, most of the work is done by a machine and workers are just acting as substitutes for it. 

Machines are getting faster, cheaper and smarter every day, which makes it possible for them to generate quality data that can be used to predict the outcome of a task.

This has led to the creation of “robots” that are programmed to work in tandem with human labor in three-step or four-step tasks and often charge a worker more than he would have earned if he had done it himself.

 For example, an artificial intelligence program is gradually replacing the work of content editors but still costs the same amount and must satisfy certain performance standards. As these programs become more efficient and affordable, many people will begin resorting to online labor for money.

4. Preying on the Desperate

MTurk workers are paid less than $3 for a thousand searches and about $2 for each 100-word article. Even though the rates are low, some people use microwork to earn a living but end up working under conditions that are unfavorable to them.

 Most companies do not offer healthcare plans to workers, so they must rely on individual insurance or public programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which can be very expensive.

Most of these companies also block certain states from using their services because they provide information and data legally classified as “non-exempt” but then provide other states with this information and data without paying them properly.

 It is because of this that users who enter Texas and other non-paying states are told by transaction logs that they owe money.

5. Illegal Activities

Although some people just want to earn a few dollars to survive, others are willing to do anything to earn money illegally. A recent thread on Reddit titled “How many of you feel you should be able to get away with stealing MTurk jobs?” showed how some microwork users are committing crimes by hacking in and downloading large amounts of data that can be used for their own gains. 

These people aren’t remorseful about the crimes they commit and stick to their ideas even after the authorities catch them.

6. The Way Forward

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are now more jobs available than people who can fill them and the lack of work or money may lead to desperate acts, but not all actions are illegal and some of them may be legal if they’re actually compatible with labor laws. 

A solution for this problem is needed, perhaps through the use of a universal basic income that would give every American a safe and decent living standard. Not everyone is entitled to access to this income, but those who do should get help from charities and their own families.

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