Friday, June 25, 2010

Hal Varian's Ely Lecture

Computer Mediated Transactions

E-mail and other tools allow for asynchronous communication over a distance, which allows for optimization of tasks on a global basis. Knowledge work can be subdivided into tasks, much like the physical work in Adam Smith’s pin factory. But even more, those tasks can be exported around the world to where they
can most effectively be performed.

For example, consultants at McKinsey routinely send their PowerPoint slides to Bangalore for beautification. There are many other cognitive tasks of this sort that can be outsourced, including translation, proofreading, document research and so on. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (Wikipedia 2009a) is an intriguing example of how computers can aid in matching up workers and tasks. As of March 2007 there were reportedly over 100,000 workers from 100 countries who were providing services via the Mechanical Turk (Pontin 2007)

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