Are you a human being? If not, you can safely stop reading now. However, if you belong to this idiosyncratic species - or are at least convinced that you do - please take the time to answer one tiny question for me: How do you actually know that?
Aha, I caught you: I can literally see you pausing in front of the question, smiling at first, since the answer is obvious. But then the doubts start gnawing. You don't really know. But don't worry: as with all unanswerable questions, there is the white-bearded, solitary, all-knowing hermit to whom what remains hidden from us is revealed. In this case, however, we are fortunately spared the long, arduous journey to the Tibetan high mountains to receive a cryptic answer that will occupy us the whole foot-aching way home. No, the white beard lives behind almost every third homepage on the Internet, and it goes by the unusual name of "captcha".
Yes, esteemed fellow travellers in the cosmic course of things: The captcha knows whether you, whether I, whether our tax advisor, whether any of us is in fact human. And only those who are human are worthy of entering the paradisiacal realm of digital information or may feast on the binary nectar of the mostly free online service. All we have to do is answer mostly simple questions. It began with reading out letters and numbers, later house numbers, now we have to identify traffic lights, chains of hills and motorbikes. It's a nice change from the often dreary office routine, you hardly ever get out, and a little search game in between keeps the brain muscles fit.
The captcha knows whether you, whether I, whether our tax advisor, whether any of us is in fact human. And only those who are human are worthy of entering the paradisiacal realm of digital information.
Despite all the homely comforts of this virtual gatekeeper, we can't help but also ask ourselves the critical questions: Why even? Aren't we striving for a world of equality, of openness, without discrimination? Then why do we want to exclude our robotic friends from everything that gives pleasure? Perhaps they are soulless bots. However, if we are honest, really honest with ourselves, each of us knows many people whose company we would trade in without hesitation to that of soulless bots. So maybe we're drawing the dividing line on the wrong front: the question shouldn't be "human" vs. "non-human", but "provides pleasant company" vs. "annoying like someone who starts small talk in the lift"; "provides useful contribution" vs. "person in uni group work who is happy with the grade 4.0". Imagine forums, comment sections and social media where unproblematic bots can do their bidding, but all the - pardon the outburst - annoying asswipes, human or otherwise, are left at the door.
Imagine forums, comment sections and social media where unproblematic bots can do their bidding, but all the - pardon the outburst - annoying asswipes, human or otherwise, are left at the door.
A concept that could also confidently be transferred to the real world: Admission to the theatre is only granted to those who can prove at the entrance that they are familiar with the basic structure of ancient tragedy; the concert hall is only open to those who know when to applaud; public toilets can only be entered if one can prove that one can correctly recognise a toilet brush. What a world, dear readers. The captcha makes it possible by asking the simple question: Are you worthy to enter? Are you the one Avenger who may lift Thor's Mjölnir? Are you the chosen one? Are you?
Respectfully - Strigalt von Entf
*Our "Feuill-IT-ong" format is created in collaboration with the two freelance writers Tobias Lauterbach und Daniel Al-Kabbani who occasionally contribute to the satire platform "Der Postillon". Under the pseudonym Strigalt von Entf, they report on current events from the world of technology – always with a wink! ;-)