Please Verify Your Humanity

2013-01-20 13.41.42We’ve all seen them – verification captchas that ask you to type a handful of letters and numbers – usually quite difficult to read – in order to create an account or access information. “Prove you’re human.” Lately, the wording of these has started to get to me.

Maybe it’s because I spend so much time with my head in science fiction, but “Prove You’re Human” seems like a great way to piss off either an artificial intelligence singularity or an alien species that comes into contact with our internet. Or, maybe they wouldn’t want to access our stupid information anyways.

Today I registered for STEAM in order to get a copy of ACTUAL SUNLIGHT, an incredible and insightful game that deals with themes of depression and suicide (the original demo version was amazing, if intense), and was prompted by a new wording of the usual question: “Please Verify Your Humanity.”

While my quibble with the usual wording of this question might be pretty out there (and yes, I admit that they’re pretty out there), “Prove Your Humanity” makes me cringe. Why? Because there are plenty of humans capable of answering the question whose “humanity” I would call into question. (Example: the terrorists responsible for the kidnapping and subsequent “forced marriage” – i.e. sex trafficking – of over 200 young women in Nigeria on April 15th – they could probably answer the question, but I seriously doubt their “humanity,” per se.)

Google defines “Humanity” as:

hu·man·i·ty
(h)yo͞oˈmanitē/
noun
  1. 1.
    the human race; human beings collectively.
    “appalling crimes against humanity”
    synonyms: humankindmankindmanpeople, human beings, humans, the human race, mortals; More

  2. 2.
    humaneness; benevolence.
    “he praised them for their standards of humanity, care, and dignity”

 

 

But plenty of people guilty of crimes against humanity are still capable of typing a few letters and numbers, and all that says is that they can read and recognize letters – not that they treat others with humaneness or benevolence, and certainly not that they’re collectively human beings or “the entire human race”.

While I doubt this phrasing (or the original phrasing) bothers anybody but me, I thought it was interesting that in this case, not only is “humanity” being held up as the standard one should meet in order to participate in Steam’s community, but also that the test they give is no measure of humanity at all.

Thanks for indulging this minor digression into semantics. I appreciate your patience with my editing brain, and leave you with this video of humans kicking Big Dog, videotaping it, and putting it on the internet for our future robot overlords to see. Robot mistreatment starts around :40s.

One response to “Please Verify Your Humanity

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