Without men and women, no machines … and no “digital” economy, argues French-Italian sociologist Antonio Casilli. To calibrate intelligent technologies, a global crowd of humans perform millions of small tasks, sorting songs in playlists, transcribing receipts, tagging images, listening to what others say to connected speakers. These fragmented, repetitive "microtasks" constitute the secret ingredient of artificial intelligence.
Who are the "invisible" workers? Often working from home, these new proletarians perform piecework on global platforms and are paid very little, sometimes less than a penny if they reside in low-income countries. This type of human computing is a key part of present-day automation, despite the claim that "machines are replacing workers". This technological "great replacement" will not take place, maintains Antonio Casilli: you will always need this humble, invisible, digital labor. Digital labor is not just a temporary phase, but a structural feature, hard-wired into automation’s modes of production.
Antonio A. Casilli, En attendant les robots. Enquête sur le travail du clic, Seuil, 2019.
The event is part of the initiativeorganised by the Institut français d'Italie and the French Embassy.
Antonio A. Casilli is an associate professor at the Paris School of Telecommunications (Telecom Paris) and a faculty fellow of the Nexa Center for Internet & Society (Polytechnic University of Turin). In addition to several scientific publications in French, English, Spanish, Hungarian, and Italian, he is the author of "En attendant les robots" ([Waiting for Robots], Paris: Seuil, 2019), "Qu’est-ce que le digital labor?" ([What is digital labor?], Paris: Editions de l’INA, 2015), "Les liaisons numérique"s ([Digital relationships]; Paris: Seuil, 2010).
The poster of the event