Katrina Forrester, 7 July 2022
Many jobs involve work we would prefer not to think about. When you recycle your rubbish, you know that someone somewhere will have to sort through it. When you eat meat, you know that someone did the killing. We overlook much of the work done to meet our needs, even when it’s closer to home: cleaning the streets, unblocking the sewers, digging graves. Someone always has to do the dirty work. The internet was supposed to be different. The new technologies central to contemporary capitalism offer the possibility of improving our working lives, even if they do so partly by eliminating our jobs. But badly paid and repetitive work has not diminished, it has proliferated. Machine learning, it transpires, depends on humans doing boring and unpleasant things – above all, cleaning and annotating data.