Friday, 11 September 2009

Are you human ?

If you would like to comment on some blogs (not mine), or do various other things on the internet, you are required to prove that you are a human being. How do you do that ? By looking at a mangled word and typing the text into a box. Since humans are better at pattern recognition than machines, it is then presumed that you are a human. Though judging by the number of times I get it wrong, I must be at least half machine.

Apparently this sort of stuff is called CAPTCHA – Completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart). Trust somebody to come up with an abbreviation like that. As a digression, you may want to read an old rant of mine against meaningless jargon like this here.

Now this set me thinking on various other strange stuff we have to prove in daily life.

• I am always amazed at the need for a birth certificate to prove that you have been born.

• Ditto death certificate to prove that you are dead.

• One of the companies I know requires pensioners to reaffirm every year that they are alive, by producing an “alive certificate” (in prescribed format, no less) to continue drawing their pension.

• How many times have I needed to sign on documents that I am “of sound mind”. Now that’s an entirely debatable assertion.

• I am aware that in our good old country, a farmer can get a write off of a buffalo loan by proving that his buffalo had died. Acceptable proof was the production of a buffalo tail. Needless to say a thriving market existed in reused buffalo tails and the service of rendering your alive and well buffalo tailless.

• Certain countries (there being one really notorious one which I shall not name), require a formal marriage certificate attested by a multitude of government agencies to accept that your spouse is your spouse. Now in countries where a marriage certificate was not the norm, this is a really tough matter. The simpler way is to remarry (complete with sons, daughters, grandchildren present), to the accompaniment of much mirth, to get that prized certificate.

• I am often required to prove that my daughter is my daughter. Her calling me papa is apparently not enough. Thankfully, I got her birth certificate which says so; so it must be so !

• I have just signed a visa application to visit a certain country, where I have been required to aver that I am not a terrorist.

But back to CAPTCHA. Apparently an outsourcing industry has sprung up to serve spammers. Machines have outsourced the job of beating CAPTCHAs to human beings in developing countries. I believe the going rate is $3 per 1000 CAPTCHAs broken. You can, but only, marvel at the business acumen in the outsourcing industry. Make a business of proving to a machine that you are a human. Now that’s something …

18 comments:

  1. LOL!!! Buffalo tails, alive/dead, machines ... :-D Crazy world we are in!

    For further proof of your sound mind, show them your blog! :-)

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  2. recently i was trying to make a passport for my baby on tatkal.

    First, i had to either include my name on my husband's passport or my husband's name on my passport. my passport was issued in chennai - so some senior govt official of IAS cadre had to certify that i am what i am only then the inclusion would happen. to do away with the hazzle, i added my name on my husband's passport (as his passport was issued in bangalore). - thought both of us belonged to same country

    Next, i had to submit a notarized declaration that our baby was indeed ours (despite his birth certificate having both our names)

    Third i had to put my baby's fingerprint on the application form and all papers - wonder how a 2 year old tiny half smudged signature would help in any way.

    Fourth, i had to totally submit some 200 pages of xerox copies including of all the empty pages on both our passports in duplicate for verification (god knows what verification)

    after all this, i had to go and spend a day at passport office to get all this thru :-)

    another similar experience on my blog link given below
    http://sandhyasriram.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/11/order-order-order.htm

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  3. CAPTCHA makes my head want to explode at times - especially the ones on myspace.com and imeem.com. I occasionally make posts on there to promote my internet radio station and very often, the pattern of characters is so amazingly undecipherable that I just give up (and yes, I have no eyesight issues!!!). I had no idea it was an abbreviation for something that makes no sense whatsoever. Awesome post. In general, I find your blog wickedly awesome so keep the posts coming!!!

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  4. Anonymous11/9/09

    This is an interesting match up between humans and computers (well just other humans) and while CAPTCHA is baffling many of us, the computers are already beating us at other "human" behavior such as face recognition and recognizing emotion in speech. So we will just have to settle for being less than human :-)

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  5. @thoughtful train - Its a crazy world indeed :) It needs a thoughtful train to bring some sense to it all :)

    @Sandhya - Yes the passport story isanother example os such stuff. QWait till your baby is 5 - then no fingerprints; they expect 5 year olds to sign !!

    @Pranav - Hey Diddy; thanks for coming and commenting. Well well, I am honoured - for my blog to be termed wickedly awesome by the master himself - that's something.

    @Anon - Less than human :) Although I didn't realise that machines are better at recognising emotions. I should go and buy one given that I can recognise neither faces nor emotions :)

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  6. yeah right.. such elaborate checks and finally the purpose not solved..

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  7. ROFTL Ramesh That was very very funny

    :P

    I am wonderstuck how much you have managed to pull off from the daily life in regards to the subject in a witty and realistic way.

    Yes its crazy and i cant even imagine how the future would be down this road

    Thoroughly enjoyed from bafflo tail to sound mind :)

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  8. //For further proof of your sound mind, show them your blog! :-)
    //

    Repeat!!!

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  9. @thoughtful train - Its a crazy world indeed :) It needs a thoughtful train to bring some sense to it all :)
    //

    ahaa adaa adaa adaaadaa

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  10. @AJCL - When die hard bureaucrats take over, we get strange happenings !

    @Srivats - I am totally flattered. Thanks for making my day :)

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  11. Crazy world indeed, asking for all papers to prove a human, at the cost of the person's humane emotions:).

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  12. @savitha - Soon will come a day when a chip is implanted under the skin and then all the paper can go away. Bit a frightening thought, isn't it ?

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  13. Yeah,I heard of it,too!V frightening. With RF sensors,one can be traced from anywhere....Slowly drugging the world in the name of 'sophistications'.

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  14. Thanks for this informative post. Never knew what those CAPTCHAS were for....

    The idea of outsourcing it sounds quite interesting :)

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  15. @Mahesh - You can outsource anything in today's world it looks like !!

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  16. LOL abt the buffalo's tail;-D.
    & the vertification where u have to prove u r alive....there are so many frauds going on in this name, can u blame them.
    u knw sometimes I type my email id & password so fast[out of pratice ofcourse] & gmail tells me tht it looks likes the handiwork of an automated machine & therefore will not let me access my OWN email;-/
    Grrrr...I get so mad.

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  17. And just thought I'll let u know tht I've posted a comment on tht Ingrid Bergman post:-))

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  18. @ Reflections - Grrr indeed. Give some choice gaalis to Google in machine language !!

    Hey thanks for the comment on the Ingrid Bergman post of long ago. Very kind and understanding of you. I had goofed that time.

    ReplyDelete

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