Felipe’s a good guy (I knew him when he was at MSFT) but this session wasn’t anything exciting because it’s all old news. There are some things humans are better at than computers, typically things involving judgment such as “which is the best picture of this store?” Yes, I saw that when Amazon first released Mechanical Turk.

They did have a partner on stage, a company called Casting Words that offers podcast transcription services for 42 cents a minute. But how is that a business? I’m not sure what kind of percentage Casting Words is making out of that 42 cents a minute, but couldn’t I go directly to Mechanical Turk and ask for transcription services myself? There are no Casting Words tasks currently on the site as I type this, but I imagine if I watch a while I'll see a Casting Words task. Then I could simply use a site like HIT Builder to farm out my own transcription tasks. What’s my incentive to use Casting Words at all?

Furthermore, there’s not really a business model behind Mechanical Turk itself. If Microsoft launched its own version, there would be plenty of takers for that work as well – the workers will gravitate to where the best paying and most interesting work they can do is. There’s no incentive to provide your artificial artificial intelligence services exclusively to one company. So Mechanical Turk wouldn’t work as a stand alone business. But as a feature of Amazon it works great. In fact, when the service first launched the only tasks came from A9. I’m guessing it would be worth it to Amazon to run the service even if they were the only ones using it.