Local & State Voices

I’m not a robot - or am I?


I am not a robot.

If you’re like me, Queen Citizens, you’ve been asked to confirm this fact far too often, for far too little. The madness ends now.

I say far too often because these days I can’t even vote on my favorite piano-playing cat video without first confirming I’m not a robot. What, are Big Four accounting suits auditing the results before first place can be awarded to Cats Domino?

I say far too little because the arrangement is utterly one-sided, like being asked by Grimace to borrow your fitted cashmere sweater. Sure, you can do it, but you’ll be getting the short end of the stick.

Frankly, I cannot believe we Americans, hardly sheeplike, do this as often as we do. We’re the original 16-seed. We got Cornwallis into early foul trouble at Yorktown, and ultimately cut down the nets in 1781 through grit and guile, not mindless docility.

It’s not just that we’re asked, either. It’s how we’re asked. I can prove my personhood only by indicating which pictures contain a traffic sign, then a tractor, and then finally a rabbit. Proving your humanity by debasing it? The irony is rich.

Clicking on pictures is one thing, but why such strange ones? What conceivable societal good is served by my properly selecting only the picture containing a howler monkey in a dinner jacket? Pink Floyd called. They want their album designs back.

I realize that by answering the questions I strengthen the algorithm. But here’s the thing about humans. We have dignity, and dignity demands fairness. The arrangement should be bilateral: “I’ll help with your problem if you help with mine: Why do I fear intimacy whenever it thunders?”

At least I hope that’s why my technology overlords are asking the pictorial difference between a squirrel and a hammer, to teach their machine. If they’re really unsure which one stores nuts, perhaps I shouldn’t share my valuable personal data with them so readily.

And let’s address the elephant in the room. What if I’m wrong? Once I mistakenly thought the corner of a red tin roof in a picture was a stop sign. Now my inbox is filled with “can’t miss” investment opportunities from Nigerian officials, all looking for cash to ride out a coup d’état. Is this fair?

The biggest problem posed by the robot dilemma is existential, for after a little soul searching I begin to wonder. I wake at the same time, eat the same food and go to the same job, day after day. I cannot recall the last time I, like Kevin Bacon in “Footloose,” danced like nobody’s watching.

Maybe I am a robot. This is what I fear the most. Maybe my Silicon Valley masters are just sitting in their dark, cool server rooms, waiting for someone, anyone to confirm “yes, I am a robot.”

Perhaps I’ll share this insight with the two gentleman in dark suits and sunglasses, who just exited a black suburban and are briskly heading up my walkway.

Kerrigan is a Charlotte attorney. Email: mikekerrigan29@gmail.com