Kashmir Hill worked as an invisible boyfriend/girlfriend for a month. We are already living with one foot in the near future.
With each job, I would see the person’s first name, last initial and hometown; “how we met;” and my own assigned name, age, and which of six personality types they’d given their Invisible. Now I’m adventurous and fun. Now I’m cheerful and outgoing.
There were 3 major rules:
1. I was always supposed to be upbeat in my messages.
2. I’m not supposed to break character.
3. No sexting. (Photos are blocked on the service.)
I’d get the story of how we met and the last 10 messages we’d exchanged. This setup is designed to create the illusion of continuity; ideally, an Invisible Boyfriend would seem like a steady, stable presence in a user’s life, instead of what it really is: a rotating cast of men and women. And it is both: a woman who works for the service previously told me she prefers playing the role of boyfriend because she knows what a woman wants to hear.
Hill probably got paid more for this article than she did for her work as invisible companion.
It’s hard to put a price on love. But Crowdsource did. It’s worth a whopping five cents. That’s how much I got paid to write each of these texts.
If I spent an hour answering texts, and took the full five minutes to write each one, I’d be making 60 cents an hour, far below the minimum wage. This is legal because all the workers on the platform are classified as independent contractors rather than employees. “Contributors have a tremendous amount of control over their decisions—for example, when to perform a task, when to complete it, and even if they want to complete it at all,” said Jeffrey H. Newhouse, an employment lawyer at Hirschler Fleischer, by email. “That means the contributor isn’t an employee and, as a result, employee protections like the minimum wage don’t apply.”
Not surprising considering the required skill set is the ability to write with decent grammar, that's reasonably commodified.
As with Uber, the laborers already fear displacement by technology like self-driving cars.
I assumed that, when artificial intelligence is good enough, Invisible would just cut the crowdsourced humans out of the equation and use chat bots, which you don’t have to pay per message, instead.
No, he said. “Having humans in the flow is the key to the service,” said Tabor. “There are things that only humans can respond to and understand, like inside jokes.”