A robot hand clicks a mouse. Above it is a speech bubble containing exclamations/expletives.

I Am Not a Robot

I am not a robot! Really, I am not. However, it seems that a lot of places think I am and shut me out of their systems.

Not a robot!

I was on the Pennsylvania voter registration site a few weeks back. I needed to change my party affiliation. (A long story that is not within the purview of this site). Before I was finished I had to prove I was a real, flesh and blood person and not a computer program written to bollix up the works. The site asked me to check all the boxes with “motorcycle.”

Checking all the boxes

I groaned. Really loud. To begin with, I never understand directions like that. Never have. Does “motorcycle” mean the boxes in which the rider appears or just the ones with pieces of the motorcycle itself? Inquiring minds and all that.

Legally blind

Then, there is the small fact I am LEGALLY BLIND! You ask me to select all of the parts of the picture with traffic signs (Signs or also signals? Why are they never clear?), and I promise you I will not see at least one or two. Then they ask me to find all the buses, and after I miss some of those, I get one more try with something like crosswalks, and then they lock me out! Arrrrrrgggggghhhhh!

So much for accessibility

You would think something like a state voter registration site would be user-friendly for all, but that was definitely not the case. I looked for the little icon of the headphones to prove I am not a robot with auditory input. It wasn’t there. So much for non-discrimination by the state.

Auditory assistance

Of course, the auditory ones are only a tad better. Some of them are distorted or are presented with background noise. And all of them are weird. Things like Sally, peanut butter, mango, dance. Why would Sally want to do the mango dance with peanut butter? Back to inquiring minds wanting to know... or maybe I don’t want to know after all.

Decay of the moral universe

How did all of this nonsense come about? Personally, I think it has to do with the decay of our moral universe. The paper Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA by W3C Working Group Notes calls these frustrating blind person traps Turing Tests and says they have a purpose as well as - just maybe - being related to my theory about the decay of the moral universe.

A bit of history

First of all, remember Alan Turing? He was a British mathematician and early computer scientist. He was at Bletchley Park and was a member of the team that broke the German’s Enigma machine codes. Bloody genius.

Anyway, after the war, Turing, according to Wikipedia, was working on tests that would be able to measure a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from human intelligent behavior. Out of all of that (to me) incomprehensible work on artificial intelligence (AI) came the concept of the Turing Test.

Keeping out the 'mad hackers'

Someone decided it would be great for trying to keep mad hackers from bollocking up websites by keeping the robots out... I told you it was all related to the moral decay of the universe!

Unfortunately, an unexpected side effect of Turing’s research is keeping me out. Lovely! Just what we all need: a little more frustration in our lives. I really don’t believe torturing old, legally blind ladies was what Turing had in mind.

Advocating for the blind

Tomorrow I am going to call my state legislator and pitch a, complaint about this particular unhelpful website. And in the meantime? I am NOT a robot!

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