Michael Buffington

Human or Robot?

Friday, April 15 2011

It was my what, tenth time? Logging into TurboTax and doing some taxes was practically an automatic habit by now. This time though - this time I got past the step where everything is going to be OK and I’ve happily given TurboTax their preparation services dollars.

Then they ask me if I am a human.

It’s a question that’d normally trigger a rapid lung emptying sound meant to convey a mixture of incredulity and mocking.

Not this time. This time I was worried. After slogging away through countless menus and double checking countless and ridiculous answers to ridiculous questions, this question wasn’t so ridiculous any more. Was I still human?

They wanted to know if the oil splotches and polka dots on my screen were letters and/or numbers. What a peculiar test. If I cannot recognize them and don’t mind, am I a robot? If I cannot recognize them and panic, and I a human?

What if I cannot recognize them, don’t mind, take a wild stab and succeed?

Would a robot feel as proud as I do for passing the test?