I ran into Jeff Barr today and he asked what I thought about Mechanical Turk. 'Huh?" I said. Don't know where I've been for the last week. Amazon launched a service that brings together people with small jobs and people willing to perform them. The jobs pay pennies and take a few seconds. Micropayments for microwork. Very cool idea.
Most of the examples on the site now are picture identification tasks. The payments are around $0.03. Not a lot of money, but the jobs don't take long. Right now the requesters all seem to be Amazon. I signed up and spent a few minutes earning $0.24. Not the best pay I've ever received, but I was using a trackpad. :-) The money goes to my Amazon account and can be turned into cash.
I couldn't help thinking, however, as I did it about Paul Allen's talk that I just attended and about his pleas that we use technology to help lift people. There are a lot of people who could earn money doing this. If you have access to a computer (in the library, for example) and can read, you're qualified. To earn enough to put you above the poverty level ($9/hr), you have to do 300 tasks an hour--not inconceivable. The only sticky point is that the people most in need might not have access to a bank account to turn the earning's into cash. That's something that could be fixed without much effort.