Readers Write In #103: The Turk

Posted on October 8, 2019

3


(by Sanjay NM)

So, we moved on to the next round, like in a boxing bout. Some would say it was boxing but I prefer to call it “healthy exchanges”. In the good old days, we would sit around and have these exchanges over that lousy liquid. Arguments that were as eclectic as anything. Topics from silly to sensitive, from the mundane to the mercurial and from the public to the personal.

Under usual circumstances, it would be “last man standing”. But with almost all of them knocked out, it was just me and him left.

“Ah you fixed a strong one” I said, as I took a sip.

“Is that a fuckin metal straw?” He said

“Helping out the environment man. The Turtles need us”, I said even as he scoffed.

“Oh this young girl Greta. Some people call her fake. Some people say that she is a puppet of liberal masters and some say she is here to make a quick buck.

She’s the real Penny-wise man. The fears, insecurities of people manifesting in the form of a young girl. Explains why I thought she’s just a sad teenager who isn’t dating anyone.” He said, with a chuckle.

“I guess she’s out there for a quick buck. Get loaded for college.”, I said

“That’s your fear man.”, He said.

“If you are a middle-aged man with hardly anything to show for, then you would think the same.”

“It sucks. But I guess you were one of those unlucky ones.”, he shrugged.

“What do you mean?” , I said.

“I mean… with your brother. Your kids? They will grow up. But he most definitely won’t.” , he said sheepishly.

“I don’t wanna talk about it” I said.

He shrugged. “What”, I shot back.

“Nothing. Hey Alexa”. He said.

“What?”

“Say what again? I dare you. I double dare you”, said Alexa in Samuel L Jackson’s voice.

“It’s pretty cool isn’t it?” he said, as he laughed.

I wasn’t amused though. “Why the fuck did you leave that on? “, I shrieked.

“Just messin with you”, He quipped.

“And why does it sound like Samuel Jackson?” I said

“Latest one buddy. Work of a genius” , he said.

“Work of the devil”, I said.

“Oh, you mean Jeff Bezos? “, he asked with a frown.

“Sshhh. He might be listening to us. “, I said pointing to the machine.

“You are turning into one paranoid fucker.”, he said.

“One man can’t get so rich. It just doesn’t make sense man” , I said shaking my head.

“Well you know what, he earned it. He is a fucking genius. Documentaries, book! He’s there everywhere?” he said.

“I see different things about him on YouTube”, I said

“Touché”, He said with a wink. “Look man. You can’t convince me that this thing is evil, just as I can’t convince you that it’s good. All I hope is that you get jolted by something that can make you alright “

“What do you mean alright? You think I am nuts?”, I said.

“I am just saying man.” The phone buzzed. I looked at him even as he let out a chuckle. It was Mom.

“Mom I am with my…”

“Finally! Finally, your brother has something” She said, gasping for breath.

“What?” I said, my voice quivered.

“We got an email. There are these small and easy jobs that one can do on the computer. You know seeing hotel receipts and putting them on the computer. I saw on the internet that some people even earn 25,000 Rupees a month.” , she said.

“Mom, it must be some scam. You gotta be careful about this” , I said

“It’s from Amazon son! Amazon Mechanical Turk. You must know how big they are.”

I listened further.

“This is what we have been waiting for. There is some kind soul giving jobs for people like your brother. “

“It’s called differently abled Mom. And I wouldn’t go so far in calling them kind” , I said.

“You have a good night with your friends. Bye”, said my Mom.

I downed the drink, flinging the metal straw.

“Cool down brother”, he said.

“Hey Alexa! What is Amazon Mechanical Turk”, I asked, breaking few minutes of silence.

“Amazon Mechanical Turk is a marketplace for businesses to outsource their simple tasks”, said Alexa.

“Why is it called so?”, I asked.

“Amazon Mechanical Turk is named after the myth of “The Turk”, a fake chess playing machine constructed in the late 18th century. The Turk was in fact a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. “, said Alexa.

“So, a human behind what seemed like Artificial Intelligence. Is that right? “, I asked.

“Hey Alexa. Is there a human listening instead as we speak?” I asked, as I laughed.

There was no response.

“Is anyone listening?”, I asked, a bit sterner this time.

There was no response.

I waited. He waited. Alexa waited.