While billions scroll their merry ways through Facebook and Twitter each day, behind the scenes are legions of reviewers scanning photos and video to prevent graphic content from making the newsfeeds of unsuspecting users.
Elsewhere, the faceless armies of the gig economy are making movies, building homes, driving Uber and working piecemeal to caption innumerable images for people too busy to do it for themselves.
Welcome to the future of crowdsourcing. While the collective actions of those on the frontlines of crowdsourcing save millions of others from drudgery and from psychological trauma, the ascension of automation is raising questions that human society has never had to deal with before. These are the “wicked problems” — questions in which success cannot be determined with certainty or where multiple, mutually exclusive goals must be delicately balanced to create an optimal outcome.
These are questions that Stanford's Michael Bernstein, an assistant professor of computer science and an expert on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), grapples with on a daily basis. What is the optimal organizational structure for such crowdsourcing communities? What are the ethical implications of the gig economy? And, who are the right people to answer these questions?