An accessible analysis of the new forms of work whose seismic changes will increasingly determine the future of capitalism
Automation and the decline in industrial employment have lead to rising fears of a workless future. But what happens when your work itself is the thing that will make your job obsolete?
In the past few years, online crowdworking platforms - like Amazon's Mechanical Turk and Clickworker - have become an increasingly important source of work, particularly for those in the Global South. Here, small tasks are assigned to people online, and are often used to train algorithms to spot patterns, patterns through machine learning those same algorithms will then be able to spot more effectively than humans. Used for everything from the mechanics of self-driving cars to Google image search, this is an increasingly powerful part of the digital ecomomy. 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.
About the Author
Phil Jones is a research affiliate at Autonomy and a PhD researcher at the University of Sussex. His writing regularly appears in the Guardian and OpenDemocracy.
“Beneath the noisy sphere of autonomous robots and smart assistants, Jones clearly and patiently reveals the hidden abode of underpaid, overworked, and insecure labourers that underpin our digital society. This is an essential guide to an often invisible world.” —Nick Snricek, author of Platform Capitalism
“Let Phil Jones be your guide to the darkest underbelly of work under digitized capitalism, where tech barons surveil workers’ every move and sell their clicks for profit, and the ‘job’ falls apart but we work more all the time. A beautifully written call to arms to stop this miserable future before it comes for all of us.” —Sarah Jaffe, author of Work Won’t Love You Back
“In this fast-paced and exciting read, Phil Jones explores the hidden abodes of the digital economy, where the world’s surplus workers label images, moderate content, and teach algorithms how to identify common house pets, all for a few cents an hour. Work Without the Worker explores how dispossessed microworkers might band together to spearhead a global movement for free-time and material security.” —Aaron Benanav, author of Automation and the Future of Work
“Takes readers to the hidden abode of production of artificial intelligence: a world of precarious, highly exploited, and onerous microwork increasingly performed in the slums, prisons, and refugee camps of sclerotic post-crisis capitalism. With an incandescent urgency, Jones argues that such digitally fragmented piecework threatens livelihoods of all sorts, but also that it offers a tantalizing potential for a world beyond wage labor—if we can fight for it.” —Gavin Mueller, author of Breaking Things at Work