[OSM-talk] Facebook mapping highways using AI in collaboration with OpenStreetMap

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Fri Jul 26 14:13:41 UTC 2019


On 26.07.19 11:49, Mikel Maron wrote:
> I for one would not say anything if I did not personally believe it. I
> am not here representing corporate interests (at this very moment I'm
> writing this from the middle of Nairobi's largest slum working on OSM,
> rather than a comfortable room in Europe). You can still draw whatever
> conclusions about me you like.

But you are a rare exception. You were "in OSM" long before it was
economically fashionable. And I guess that if you were to quit your job
tomorrow and go herding sheep in New Zealand, you would still be doing
something with OSM.

When Christoph and I speak of corporate appropriation, we think of
organisations encroaching OSM without any interest other than their own
commercial goals. We think of people who do this *purely* as a job and
who will immediately quit if their employer tasks them with something else.

OSM, by itself, does not need anyone to "turbocharge mapping". This is
purely a concept driven by the commercial motives of Facebook et al; OSM
didn't scale up quickly enough for them because OSM valued first-hand
contributions from hobbyists on the ground. And you know how global
capitalism works these days - it depends on exploiting people in one
part of the world to produce stuff for people elsewhere. Almost every
rule-violating import or mass edit these days is done by low-paid,
exploited workers somewhere in Asia or South America on behalf of US
American companies. And now Facebook gives us another tool whereby
someone with money in country A can pay a poor person in country B a few
peanuts to add a couple thousand roads in country C because that's where
they want to develop new business or whatever.

One thing that Karl Marx was banging on about with regards to Capitalism
was the concept of "alienation". I don't agree with many of his ideas
but I do kind of buy this idea, that people are disenfranchised by
capitalism driving a wedge between the worker and their product. Where
we used to have craftspeople who made a thing and sold it, we now had
people who just add a little thing to something on a conveyour belt and
never get to see the final product.

This is what happens with this "turbocharged" mapping. We used to have
mappers survey and add something, and be the author of it. Facebook and
Co are edging us towards a situation where most of the map will be made
by exploited micro-taskers with the help of AI. Nobody will have the
pride of ownership any more; people will be alienated from the map.

I really struggle to see anything good in this whole project, even if it
didn't come from Facebook and even if it weren't crassly over-sold to
the press. I think that we are allowing corporate interests to take over
the soul of OpenStreetMap, wring it dry, and spit it out in a couple of
years when they find something else to play with.


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

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