On a positive note, the era of the captcha code will soon have passed. On a (not necessarily connected but) related playground word is out, “Beware, the End is Nigh”.
Admittedly, I learned only recently that captcha is short for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart”, that reCaptcha shows scans from old books, which, once identified, contribute to a vast archive and that hackers and spammers have long found algorithms that outsmart this once security measure. Naively I conclude that it took 15 years (an immense time in “digital age” anyway) for computers to learn what was impossible at first.
The replacement for the captcha is great: It’s a box, saying “I am not a robot” that you have to tick. The actual click is irrelevant, but the human element to the vector motion of the mouse/cursor is unpredictable, making it almost 100% safe.
On touchscreens this would not work, so here’s the other novelty: To prove that a human is operating the procedure, similarities have to be found and confirmed. The sample images might be obvious and easy, but the vast data accumulated in weeks, months and years will rocket the abilities of programmes in that field enormously. Take into account what this will do for face recognition software on CCTV and the likes and old Orwell is right around the corner, wearing his “Told you so!” face.
Then there´s Stephen Hawking’s recent doomsday outlook (“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”) and Elon Musk’s warning not to “summon the demon“. The later, a metaphor congruent to the Zauberlehrling, is too late anyway, or at least that’s what I think when being followed online by “sticky ads” and aggressive marketing.
Parts of a christmas card we received from a great aunt of mine would do well as a hard to guess captcha code too. But having turned 104 recently, you really can’t blame her. When her life began the first world war had not started, airplanes were a novelty and one of the very primates of modern computing, IBMs punched cards, still were decades away.
There is more than the online world. The invasion of gadgets left aside, most of all considering the amount of time they were meant to save, but are instead allowed to occupy, I don’t consider computing a threat to my freedom.
At end of the day, it’s a wee box of zeros and ones.
You’re invited to contribute thoughts on the rise of robots and our fight back with pitchforks and stones in a comment below; movie references from Terminator to the Matrix, Transformers and beyond are welcome.