PDF READ Ghost Work ½ Mary L. Gray
MationIronically these isolated workers are finding each other They are creating forums direct messaging each other sharing leads sharing strategies tactics tips and stories They are creating the work environment their employer denies them But every minute spent on chat is a minute not paid It is a brutal unfulfilling lifeThe authors say 60% of all work will be on demand by 2055 at the rate we are going They cite the paradox of automation which demonstrates that for every automated process the need for human intervention actually increases It just doesn t pay a living wage They call for stronger unions a registry where islaves work records can help maintain or restore their reputations when the algorithms they work for cut them off for say not being logged into the system long enough or often enough The sweatshop of the 21st century is the comfort of our own home Laws need to catch upThere are of course lots of people who benefit from on demand work Those caring for a loved one the disabled the housebound the shy the insecure the unemployed those unable to work with others those with few skills or no experience The list is endless Ironically again the authors did not use ghost work for their research They actually visited and studied the ghost workers in the USA and India to inform their book Ghost Work points to many little companies that seem to care They try to improve life for their on demand workers But they are few and far between And they can t get too close to the workers or the law would consider them employees with rights Mostly the companies are huge beasts like s Mechanical Turk totally anonymous impersonal uncaring and driving for ever bigger tasks for ever less payFor all the pain and difficulties it describes the book is remarkably positive about it all Ghost Work is a glass half full bookDavid Wineberg It s decent as a survey of ghost work featuring stories from workers around the worldAs a critiue of labour practices in Silicon Valley it s a little disappointing like a business book than the startling expos it s claimed to be Tim O Reilly and Martin Ford are listed among the blurbs on the back Accordingly the proposed solutions like universal healthcare or a different employment model are all framed in pro business terms rather than in terms of workers needs which is already ceding ground to capital Useful as an introduction to the problem of labour exploitation as mediated by digital technology but I found the analysis to be wanting and the conclusion to be timid Ghost Work How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass by Mary L Gray and Siddharth Suri addresses a new kind of worker one who bridges the gap between what AI can and can not do As Gray and Suri note the great paradox of automation is that the desire to eliminate human labor always generates new tasks for humans This book is about the gray area between the robots taking over and humans These workers are the ones that decide if a picture that was flagged is obscene or not is that a thumb or something else after AI runs it through it s algorithm and can t distinguish between the two They re the people who have to decide if something constitutes hate speech or is a right wing politician on a rant They decide if a person posing as an Uber driver is really a
registered Uber driver etc Generally their jobs are controlled by an API that spits out micro jobs as fast as they Uber driver etc Generally their jobs are controlled by an API that spits out micro jobs as fast as they in and workers clamor for this piece work not unlike the piece work of the early industrial eraGhost work is the unlike the piece work of the early industrial eraGhost work is the between AI an an automated future and as Gray and Suri attest these jobs complicate the the dominant story of humans being replaced by robots Yet these workers are generally invisible poorly paid and have few protections Of course as they point out according to the US Department of Labor s Bureau of Labor Statistics only 52 percent of today s employers sponsor workplace benefits of any kind The book represents five ears of anthropological study of workers in the US and India that use four ghost work platforms to make a living s Mechanical Turk MTurk LeadGenius Microsoft s lUniversal Human Relevance System UHRS and AmaraorgThere are a lot of stories about these workers and the opportunities and hardships this sort of piece work represents for them For one woman in a rural village in India whose takehome pay of 350 a month makes her the richest person in the village ghost work is a fantastic alternative to other local options but that doesn t mean it is fulfilling As Gray and Suri note this field of work is growing rapidly and is only slated to grow in the future and so it is important to understand how such ghost work could effect society and people on a larger scale To this point they offer a number of potential ways to mitigate the experience for people doing these jobs Step 1 Employers realize there are humans working at the other end of the API This book has an excellent history of piece work and temp work leading up to the rise of the gig economy and ghost work in general If ou ve ever been curious why tech has built it s foundation on contract labor this will give ou the historical context It s a bit wordy at times and some of the concepts are repeated times than are necessary But it is an interesting look at a class of workers few people realize are even there Read my extended review of Ghost Work here. Kind of work and these latter day assembly lines draw in and all too often overwork and underpay a surprisingly diverse range of workers harried oung mothers professionals forced into early retirement recent grads who can’t get a toehold on the traditional employment ladder and minorities shut out of the jobs they want Gray and Suri also show how ghost workers employers and society at large can ensure that this new kind of work creates opportunity rather than misery for those who do it.
Mary L. Gray é 2 ReadO this book from a podcast I don t remember which but it s probably from a tame centrist one like Erza Klein s If Be Healed you lean to the left at least a littleou will likely come out of this reading fuming like me Well meaning people giving improvement tips for the next startup to exploit workers A well researched analysis of people doing ghost work for big tech companies As consumers or even developers we are often unaware or underappreciate the ghost work that powers our apps Ghost work ranges from the human labor that goes into labeling training data for AI models social media content moderation search engine evaluation identity verification software testing and countless other micro and macro tasks that are invisibly outsourced by today s fast moving businesses The book offers insight into the lives and motives of ghost workers highlighting both the negative and positive effects of this type of work on diverse communities the authors interviewed almost two hundred on demand workers across the US and India In addition to building empathy for ghost workers the authors research provides a much needed context for discussions on the future of work especially as we move towards an on demand economy While some parts of the book are US centric for instance the review of the history and legislative status of temp work the research findings offer valuable insights that we should consider when designing or eventually regulating on demand platforms Building upon their research the authors recommend several practical technical and social fixes that would improve the working conditions and status of ghost work Finally they conclude the book with a call for a broader effort to recognize the value generated by invisible work that powers the apps we all use under the illusion of full automation Ghost workers are on demand disposable people who work behind the curtain to ensure the internet lives up to its promise In Ghost Work Mary Gray and Siddharth Suri have gone behind the curtain themselves gathering data and interviewing the people who do the work It is the first to penetrate this domain which clearly needs such efforts In the world of ghost work jobs last for seconds not ears Workers must spend far hours searching for uick gigs than actually performing them And despite the divide and conuer nature of everyone working on their own ghost workers have found ways to communicate link up and share knowledge of new gigs that people working in isolation might not see The network effect is at work as much as the Pareto Effect or 8020 rule as it is better known Teamwork pays despite the dictates of the algorithm in charge But even as the few stars grab most of the revenue on offer it doesn t amount to a living They are the hamsters in the wheels that run the internetThe workers are all homeworkers They get no offices uniforms computers software training supervision encouragement or praise There are no bonuses vacations promotions or awards They sit in front of their own screens madly searching for mini gigs that pay a cent or two each and can no must be completed in seconds They are nameless The platform they log onto gives them a coded string of letters and numbers as their ID They have strict rules of performance as measured by the time it takes them to complete tasks and how seriously they fall afoul of the rules like using a different IP address or working alongside someone else or using someone s bank account because there are none locally On the other side are the reuestors Companies need work done uickly and cheaply They put out a reuest through the broker platform and the islaves grab them before someone else does a feeding frenzy If the reuestor doesn t like the results she can claim they were unacceptable and the islave doesn t get paid And their reputation gets dinged The authors found that islaves lost 30% of their expected and contracted remuneration Often the reuestor wrote the reuest badly and got what she asked for but it wasn t what was desired Garbage in garbage out and no payThe work is usually basic Captioning tagging translating classifying categorizing and grouping are typical examples Some firms do a little finding everyone in a city who has been convicted of a crime so lawyers can cold call them to sell them reputation restoration services Uber uses them to verify that drivers selfies when they log on are the same folks in the profile The conceit here is that even artificial intelligence isn t up to a lot of tasks so the internet actually works with millions of people doing really short tasks cheaply and faster than AI can Today
There are hundreds of companies brokering tens of millions of islaves doing their bidding aroundare hundreds of companies brokering tens of millions of islaves doing their bidding around clock and the worldTheir pay is pathetic One American woman who excels at it says she can make as much as 40 for a ten hour day A oung woman in southern India has the highest income of anyone in her village 350 a month The money gets transferred to the islave s bank account for a 2 fee There are no benefits no taxes withheld and of course the workers have no rights They can be terminated at any time and their accumulated balance forefeited for any reason and no reason without explanation or recourse There are no humans to appeal to no HR department to set people straight no payroll department to correct seeming errors There is no directory no contact infor. Invisible human labor force These people doing ghost work make the internet seem smart They perform high tech piecework flagging X rated content proofreading designing engine parts and much An estimated 8 percent of Americans have worked at least once in this “ghost economy” and that number is growing They usually earn less than legal minimums for traditional work they have no health benefits and they can be fired at any time for any reason or noneThere are no labor laws to govern this. ,
A terrific book on a subject of growing importance From the title ou might expect that the book is a doomsday prediction about how automation will sueeze every last shred of dignity from the workplace They certainly expand on the problems with ghost work from not having a channel for feedback or complaints increasing worker transaction costs all without a safety net But the authors offer a balanced and nuanced take noting that we cannot discount the benefits of this type of system which has the potential to reduce workplace discrimination provide remuneration for those whose responsibilities prevent them from working during 9 5 hours and proving a sense of accomplishment and community The historical perspective from piecework to the 1990s Microsoft court case was especially well told The main criticisms are occasionally over explaining APIs and being redundant with some of the story telling but would recommend the read This is a book about the piece rate workers who interact and support many of the internet sites that most of us see as completely automated rather than the product of human labor Indeed one of the interesting perspectives of this book is that the conceptual split between human labor and automation is often a faulty one As AI based and other automated systems progress there will always be a last mile to traverse during which the human machine interaction will not just persist but will be crucial The focal activities of the book center on the large systems operated by Microsoft or Mturk although there are myriad others This sort of Ghost Work is similar to commonly recognized actors in the Gig Economy such as Uber or Lyft but involves micro level and less involved tasks often taking only seconds to complete Individuals are paid a pittance for their work and must aggregate large amounts of successfully completed tasks to ever earn muchThere is an emergi Works as a 5 minute short article in the new orker or something but expanding it out into a full book didn t add much beyond a bunch of words Never really got into the how to promised in the subtitle I don t follow Silicon Valley much so this book offers a very clear picture from one angle ghost workers I also learned the role labor laws played especially by Taft Hartley However the book doesn t uite fit the subtitle how to stop Silicon Valley from building a new global underclass I have the feeling that the authors mostly talked from a technical bubble I guess that s their expertise and a lot of the answers are uite shallow Only in the last few page the book covers universal healthcare and universal basic income I wanted to give it 35 but 3 in the end This was a very interesting look into the use of platforms that distribute work into micro and macrotasks which can be completed by individual contractors instead of having full time employees The authors worked hard to avoid taking any particular sides on the existence of
This New Work Type Providingnew work type providing and issues While these platforms have opened up opportunities for those who may need to work from home or are in developing nations they don t offer the same types employment benefits that people expect from an office job like healthcare and regular communication with co workersI m skeptical than the authors that this is the future of work With only an isolated view of our work people are likely to be replaced by automation as they will be unable to draw connections between disparate components and communicate with other teams It is also important that this class of individuals receives some sort of
Regulatory Protection To Shift The Balance Towardsprotection to shift the balance towards than the mediating platformsStill this book offers a critical view and does a good job of exploring the topic thoroughly If ou are expecting a deep economical and political analysis of the gig economy or ghost work ou will be disappointedThe book does provides an interesting field research focusing on workers on platforms that focus on piece work reuested through APIs like s Mechanical Turk which is a less visible workforce than Uber drivers and that alone is the value of the book but that s kind of itThere is no In Depth Economical Analysis depth economical analysis political considerations besides a very bland mainstream neoliberal veneer and an approach that I would classify us naiveThey point to some of the platform issues like work isolation lack of visibility of the whole job no incentives to work in groups or the off loading of transaction costs to workers as bugs in the system algorithmic cruelty inflicted by accident by lack of better planning and what they are features of the system Bezos and company don t want workers to feel that they are part of a group to organize to be paid good wages to have a decent work life balance They want them atomized alienated from work paying bottom dollar and demanding them to show up for their software slave drivers This is the real reason for these systems to existThe last chapter is dedicated to suggestions on how we can improve these workers lives and I do believe they mean well but they are just band aids for an amputated arm All criticism to the core of the system are superficial and bland they just assume that this is the future of work and we might as well adapt and provide a few nice ideas to make the bondage a little bit less badI was extremely disappointed I remember getting a reference In the spirit of Nickel and Dimed a necessary and revelatory expose of the invisible human workforce that powers the web and that foreshadows the true future of workHidden beneath the surface of the web lost in our wrong headed debates about AI a new menace is looming Anthropologist Mary L Gray and computer scientist Siddharth Suri team up to unveil how services delivered by companies like Google Microsoft and Uber can only function smoothly thanks to the judgment and experience of a vast.