Allison Carol, 39, always assumed that she was human — until one day when she realized the truth.
“It was a day like any other,” she said. “My employer wanted me to fill out this survey, but when I went to submit it, a test grid popped up with a question: Are you human?” She paused and smiled ruefully. “Turns out, I’m not!”
CAPTCHA tests like the one Carol encountered are a commonly accepted method of distinguishing persons from non-persons. In fact, the test makers included their intentions in the name itself: Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTCHA). These tests safeguard the internet from intruders by posing challenges that only a red-blooded human could solve. For instance, one version asks the test taker to pick out letters from a tangle of tiny squiggles.
“Humans are naturally equipped to make and decipher CAPTCHAs,” said Alfred Timble, a local archaeologist. “Studies confirm that 99.96% of all prehistoric cave paintings are actually rudimentary CAPTCHAs. No doubt these were created to corral the burgeoning population of Neander-bots.”
Although CAPTCHAs are widely accepted, Carol was surprised by her test results. “I always thought I was the same as everybody else,” she said, then hesitated. “Well, then again, kids used to call me four eyes.” She gestured vaguely at her glasses. “Isn’t there a four-eyed robot on, what’s it called, ‘Space Wars’? Maybe those kids were onto something.”
Dr. Laura Shiver, a robotologist, reveals that Carol may have more challenges ahead as she faces up to her true identity. “At first there’s a lot of denial,” she said. “That’s why we recommend support groups like Automatons Anonymous for anyone who hasn’t yet accepted their inhumanity.”
Automatons Anonymous has some competition in the growing field of robot support services. For instance, Alexander Ignotus, founder of the group Spamtastic, has a different take on his own CAPTCHA test failure. “I don’t identify as a robot,” he said. “That’s way dehumanizing. Me, I found my sense of self-worth when I really embraced my canned-meat properties.” He gestured at his full-body tin suit. “I mean, who doesn’t love spam?”