|AI, the Transcription Economy, and the Future of Work |
Gabriel is a professional transcriber, and for years he earned a middle-class living. In the early 2000s he'd make up to $40 an hour transcribing corporate earnings calls. He'd sit at his desk, “knock it out” for hours using custom keystrokes, and watch the money roll in. “I sent my son to private schools and university on transcribing,” he tells me. “It was a nice life.”
But in the past decade, the bottom fell out. As audio recordings went digital and broadband spread, clients could ship work to India and the Philippines. Meanwhile, buzzy Silicon Valley startups emerged—like Rev, a sort of Uber and 800-pound gorilla of the transcription world. It has moved the industry toward an on-demand gig model. Since Rev charged customers a flat rate of $1 per audio minute—less than half what transcription firms historically charged—Gabriel's pay sank even further. On top of it all, AI started nipping away at the industry, with machines now able to rapidly transcribe some audio as well as humans do.
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