The puzzle was how to make money off of simple activity on the Internet. How to valorize the inane? How to profit off a banal image? How to make something with the excess time (gifted by capitalism) of the excess population? There are more people than jobs. The details are still being worked out and fine-tuned. Von Ahn and reCAPTCHA provide one small but enlightening solution. Though the case is specific, the precedent is not. ReCAPTCHA puts the excess to task in service of capitalism. It might be ironic that the only thing we do not mind recycling is our own free time for a good cause.
Much is made of the so-called "Sharing Economy," but keep in mind that what is made is constructed by those with dogs in the fight. We do not want to - God forbid - devalue these more straightforward forms of social and affective production. But the conditions are much more dire. There are lives at stake as privacy and security erode. Our demand for consumer electronics has repositioned the vibrant hellscape of the modern factory, just far enough out of view for the myth of its demise to fester.
Yet even as we fixate on the perpetual NSA spying revelations and the deranged machinations of the stock market and the battle over Net Neutrality, information threatens to become a diluter. Noise, filled with nothingness, is never on the side of the productive, but an excess of information has the potential to function as the most dangerous perfection (and its total opposite) of operational noise: that which obscures and has meaning.