Technology

Will Someone Please Put Newsweek Out of its Misery?

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According to the venereal newsweekly, the latest scourge threatening our planet is…digital sweatshops! I shit you not. Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of the university's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has the wholly imaginary scoop:

Seriously, this was the most sinister image they could come up with to illustrate "digital sweatshop"

What's to worry about? For one thing, online contracting circumvents a range of labor laws and practices, found in most developed countries, that govern worker protections, minimum wage, health and retirement benefits, child labor, and so forth. Any jurisdiction that imposes restrictions on how crowdsourcing services operate might find itself bypassed—a firm like LiveOps could simply disconnect all its contractors in, say, New York, and make more work for people in Arizona.

N-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!!!!

People can also be enlisted to do work without any idea for whom they're working or why. You might synthesize a new chemical that winds up being used as a poison or in a bomb. Iran's leaders could ask Turkers to cross-reference the faces of the nation's 72 million citizens with those of photographed demonstrators. Based on Mechanical Turk's current rates, Repression 2.0 would cost a mere $17,000 per protester.

Um. What?

Park life

If labor can be summoned and directed from afar, fewer and fewer interactions will remain untainted by those seeking to influence their outcomes. I see a park of the future, its visitors staring into small screens, clicking or talking away. One puts the finishing touches on a $10,000 challenge answer. Another casually asks three friends to see a movie with him that evening, not because he wants to, but because he'll earn a $10 commission. A third is picking up a penny for counting how many others are there, not sure why or to whom it matters. We might miss the days when we went to the park just to have fun.

Or maybe you could just step away from the computer now and then, perhaps even take a nice walk in the park, and ponder how something can be a "sweatshop" if it's not a shop and no one sweats.

In June of this year Radley Balko helped put together 10 absurd Time magazine scare-story covers.

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  1. It’s really stunning how much the idea of people just doing their own thing outside of central (meaning: Zittrain’s or people he approves of) control terrifies these people.

    It’s a subtle but chilling glimpse of the staggering level of control over others’ lives that some people would exert if they could.

  2. According to the venereal newsweekly,

    Venereal? or venerable?

      1. Guns and Ammo is a venereal magazine. As in Venus, goddess of the hunt.

        1. I thought it was Diana who was goddess of the hunt. Venus was the goddess of love, also known as Aphrodite in Greek mythology.

          1. Here is a venereal magazine. (SFW)

    1. I don’t think it’s a typo… I never touch that mag with bare hands, for that reason….

    2. Proper precautions can help prevent or at least slow the spread of venerable diseases. If you take one home it can be drip drip drip, your wife potentially could become upset, and the kids and the dog may no longer speak to you.

  3. Um. What?

    Layers of editors and fact-checkers.

    I’m afraid to hit submit because I my click might remotely synthesize some Jew Deet at an Orange Line chemical factory. Ah fuck it?

  4. I don’t even know what to say to that. That is the dumbest thing I have ever read. You have to be fucking kidding me with that.

  5. You know, in retrospect those commies were smart to put up that wall. If they didn’t, people might not have stayed in their worker’s paradise.

  6. Read the whole thing. Still can’t make any sense of it. Feel much dumber.

    1. Epi pegged it above. To these people anything happening outside of their control is presumed to be bad. Not because of what it is, but by virtue of it being out of their control. That is really all he is saying. “These people are doing things that isn’t being monitored and controled by the right people and that is bad”.

      1. Badges? Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges.

      2. I think you (and Episiarch of course) have it correctly identified.

        That any assumption of putting such monitoring/control in ‘the right hands’ betrays a severe arrogance is something that (apparently) never dawns on people like the good professor.

        So much for philosophical integrity!

    2. Purple monkey dishwasher, pass it on.

  7. Too cheap to pay for the clip art you used?

  8. This looks like something the Time Cube guy would write. It’s not just something I disagree with, or something dumb; I can’t even comprehend what point he’s trying to make.

    1. It’s not incomprehensible.

      It’s just shit.

      Ergo, your trouble metabolizing it.

  9. What’s to worry about? For one thing, online contracting circumvents a range* of labor laws and practices[…]

    And that is supposed to be a bad thing???

    * You got THAT right, asshole!

  10. Not to mention the dreaded “ni hao” MMORPG farmer.

    1. Fuck I hate those gold farmer bots, clogging up my favorite outposts with unintelligible Korean chracters.

      1. it makes me feel old to know that i have no idea what the fuck you are talking about.

        1. it makes me feel old cool to know that i have no idea what the fuck you are talking about.

  11. As I said on another website this morning, protectionism is a given as far as goods are concerened – there WILL be tariffs on imported goods simply because the government needs money and the taxpayer can only be bled (directly) so much before he has to be bled indirectly. Slapping a tariff on imported goods is relatively simple to implement (the international political implications are a separate issue).

    The same thing will happen with services, but slapping a tariff on offshored service jobs is not as easy to implement. So far starters you need a propaganda campaign to sell people on the idea that offshored services NEED a tariff. That is were mouthpieces-for-the-sate like Newsweek come in.

  12. If labor can be summoned and directed from afar, fewer and fewer interactions will remain untainted by those seeking to influence their outcomes.

    Ummm…

    What

    the

    FUCK?

    The Harvard Law School; it’s like the Stupid Superstore.

    1. Remember that the next time some Cosmotarian is telling you that we need more politicians with Ivy League educations.

    2. “If labor can be summoned and directed from afar, fewer and fewer interactions will remain untainted by those seeking to influence their outcomes.”

      That’s some Pootie Tang caliber gibberish.

      What the Professor high on GHB when that shite was written?

  13. The NYT is RACIST!!!

    http://www.nytimes.com/gift-gu…../list.html

    1. holy crap…. a new low in a sea of lows…..

    2. Just ordered the Bollywood home henna kit, not sure what it does, but it is very nicely packaged, so a steal @ $24.56

      Well, that’s paranoid lunacy from Newsweek and racist lunacy from the NYTs.

      These things are usually best enjoyed in threes. Anyone have an additional flavor variety of lunacy sampler to complete the troika?

      1. There’s the evil story of how evil corporate america fast food interests have evilly raised their evil minimum standards to such a level that they have eclipsed the righteous government standards (created by the valorous heroes at the USDA). I was on the edge of my seat reading that one! Those underdog citizen soldiers of the USDA say there is work to be done and they will surely be victorious and show those evil private interests a thing or two! Just watch, citizen.

  14. Speaking of labor, here is a story about a labor union and a gay marriage battle.

  15. BTW, I read the whole thing and understood it completely. Sure it’s looney and alarmist, but not unintelligible.

  16. For one thing, online contracting circumvents a range of labor laws and practices, found in most developed countries, that govern worker protections, minimum wage, health and retirement benefits, child labor, and so forth.

    Psssst. That’s a feature, not a bug.

    God forbid that those brown and yellow devils have an opportunity to make a living beyond dirt farming. That’s the realm of right-thinking white people and the proper ratio of minorities, you know.

  17. Another casually asks three friends to see a movie with him that evening, not because he wants to, but because he’ll earn a $10 commission.

    But is this more or less evil than doing it because he thinks he might get laid?

    1. So what? How are his friends harmed if he gets a little spare change on the side?

      1. If you ask Newsweek they’ll feed the question into their think tank manned by starving captive Somalis and Ethiopians who understand the value of a daily communal bucket of gruel in exchange for a honest 24 hour work day.

        The tank method is a little more labor intensive, daily filling and mixing of the gruel bucket, et cetera, but by volutarily opting to use the tank Newsweek can be certain these vulnerable workers aren’t being abused or exploited in their countries of origin. Newsweek feels this type of selfless sacrifice by Newsweek on behalf others is worthy of praise and 501(c)(3) tax status.

        Once processed, you can expect a competitively priced answer of same high quality found in all Newsweek products, while knowing you helped Newsweek protect workers who otherwise may have ended up in a sweat shop.

      2. The harm would be to our friendship if the friend told me to see a sucky movie just so he could pocket 10 bucks.

  18. One puts the finishing touches on a $10,000 challenge answer.

    Am I missing something here?Is somebody paying 10k for “answers”?
    When I was young I naively thought my standardized test-taking skills and voluminous knowledge of trivia would pay off someday. If someone is paying even just $10.00 for “answers” I’ve got a job to quit.Hell, I can work from the park too.

    1. Why pay 10K for an answer that anyone with a internet connected computer could easily find for free when for just a couple pennies you can have the same answer beaten out of some 3 year old sweat shop employee?

  19. Gosh, pretty soon Time and Newsweek will have to ask teir dwindling readerships for donations to keep publishing such nonsense Oops…

    1. Hurr Durrr! Pure Hilarity. But seriously, is there any real difference between asking for donations and charging a subscription? Both support their particular venue, but each carries quite a different ethos (at least to my mind). In an era of free content ubiquitously available, asking politely for support goes a lot further with me than the gatekeeper subscription model.

      When you click on someone’s NYT link and you are confronted with a member login panel, do you really believe higher quality information resides therein?

      1. In this hypothetical situation Guy is aware he is opening a NYT link before he is confronted with the member login panel. The “higher quality” information part indicates Guy is so confused and mentally impaired that for some reason he already mistakenly expected to find high quality information at the NYT site, that is so messed up.

  20. Maybe its just me, but his “park of the future”, with people hanging out, making a living on their own time and terms in pleasant surroundings, sounds pretty idyllic.

    1. My money is that he gets an a concise and proper erection when he watches Gattica.

      He’ll file the “Fullfillment of Full and Complete Arousal” form 10-C, along with the “Tardy Notification of Impending Excitement” form 3-A-9 to the authorities afterwards.

      1. Not if I don’t serve his ass with a 27b-6 first.

      2. The forms must be filed before the transaction, otherwise he will be demoted.

  21. It’s not so much unintelligible as it is batshit crazy…

    1. Not that I needed any more proof that academics live in the ivory tower of their own mental confines, this article reads like a couple of poorly digested Neal Stephenson chapters and a Democrat party bumper sticker or two have formed a standing wave interference pattern of wrongness in the echo chamber that is the professor’s mind.

  22. Maybe its just me, but his “park of the future”, with people hanging out, making a living on their own time and terms in pleasant surroundings, sounds pretty idyllic.

    Sounds like most of our local coffee shops here in Portland. I know for a fact they have Starbucks in Cambridge–you think he’d check it out sometime…

  23. This is the type of stuff that keeps statists up at night.

  24. What’s to worry about? For one thing, online contracting circumvents a range of labor laws and practices, found in most developed countries, that govern worker protections, minimum wage, health and retirement benefits, child labor, and so forth. Any jurisdiction that imposes restrictions on how crowdsourcing services operate might find itself bypassed?a firm like LiveOps could simply disconnect all its contractors in, say, New York, and make more work for people in Arizona.

    FNAB

    (Feature, Not A Bug)

  25. I actually feel naive and embarassed for citing Newsweek in a 6th grade English essay about Mars missions. Either the internet has become a hell of a lot better or print-news has become a hell of a lot dumber in the last 10 years. Either way, it deserves to die.

    1. Newsweek underwent a format change earlier this year that dumbed it down. Ten years ago it had articles worth citing.

      1. Maybe Nwsweek is trying to compete with Reason.

        1. Eddddddward. Edddddddward.

  26. Yet here you are, contributing to Hit & Run’s ad revenue by constantly visiting the site.

  27. FWIW, I had nothing to do with the wince-inducing scaremongering headline — and the article was halved in length hours before it went to press. So your finding it incomprehensible (distinct from disagreeing with it!) may be due to that. Yes, I’m ready to just blog. I’ll see if I can find the original piece and post it — in the meantime, here’s a video (taken from a Berkman Center event, so there’s a little unrelated banter at the beginning) with a fuller description of the argument: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw3h-rae3uo .

    My worries are more on the systemic side than for the participants in mturk and other crowdsourcing tools. …JZ

    1. “the article was halved in length hours before it went to press”…

      Are you saying Newsweek did a lousy job editing, and did not accurately report your views?

  28. I just had a thought, could the writing of this article be motivated by outsourcing at Newsweek?

    I don’t know if there is any or not at Newsweek, but I wonder if the possibility of outsourcees working for 1/10th the going rate in Mahnhattan is what scares the Newsweekers?

  29. Ya know, lately, I’ve been wondering if I could get some of this online contracting action. Supplement my grad student income, etc.

    Anyone know what the best sites for this are?

  30. Democrats don’t want foreigners working for American companies from their own countries. They need them clogging up American emergency rooms, buying fajitas with American food stamps, and most important voting in American elections.

  31. Democrats don’t want foreigners working for American companies. They want foreigners to be here physically, clogging up our emergency rooms, eating nachos with our food stamps, and most importantly voting in our elections.

  32. Wait, Arizona isn’t a developed country?

    (I mean, aside from the Maricopa Police State).

    1. (I mean, yes, technically Arizona isn’t a country at all. But you know what I mean.)

  33. Wow, from reading Zittrain’s account, it seems Newsweek’s editors will butcher your article if you write for them.

  34. What do you think editors are for, APOG?
    (I keed. I married one.)
    I credit Zittrain with at least having the balls to drop by.

  35. I wish I could go to the park, but Iran is paying me to count the comments on Hit & Run.

  36. Click click BOOM!!! Sorry Newsweek I had to put you down because I see you’re suffering. You were a good ol’ nag once but I can see you’re in a lot of pain now.

  37. They need them clogging up American emergency rooms, buying fajitas with American food stamps, and most important voting in American elections.

  38. That any assumption of putting such monitoring/control in ‘the right hands’ betrays a severe arrogance is something that (apparently) never dawns on people like the good professor.

  39. What’s to worry about? For one thing, online contracting circumvents a range of labor laws and practices, found in most developed countries, that govern worker protections, minimum wage, health and retirement benefits, child labor, and so forth. Any ghd straightenerjurisdiction that imposes restrictions on how crowdsourcing services operate might find itself bypassed?a firm like LiveOps could simply disconnect all its contractors in, say, New York, and make more work for people in Arizona.

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