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Machines Like Us

Crowd computing taps artificial intelligence

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The two hundred people packed into a small screening room in Midtown Manhattan on a recent Tuesday night made quite a throng. Engineers, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs sipped Sam Adams and nibbled bits from a fruit plate. They were there to learn about CrowdControl, a New York startup that is melding human workers with artificial intelligence to create the next paradigm for global labor: crowd computing.

The crowd filtered into the theater, and Kirill Shenykman, a venture capitalist who had recently led a $2 million investment in CrowdControl, took the stage. “What we are trying to do is to transform human labor into something that scales like software,” he explained. “We’re trying to take people and make them into bits.”

A few, dark chuckles went through the crowd. With his deep voice, slight Russian accent, and coiffed silver hair, Shenykman seemed like a bit of a James Bond villain describing a master plan for world domination. “I don’t mean that in a negative way, a diminutive way,” Shenykman said, waving his hand. “But just as Amazon can provide computing power on demand to a growing startup, we want to be able to offer an elastic marketplace for human labor.”

CrowdControl takes large complex jobs and breaks them into tiny pieces, then sources the piecework out to millions of micro-task workers around the world.

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