New Criticals

“Play is the unexpected glue that lashes human brains together into a global overmind,” says Thompson, the writer here whose role is apparently nothing more than a spokesman; yet that play is tenuous, hesitant, and multi-faceted.  The aim is off. We privilege human computing and understanding over computers because of humanity’s brilliant simplicity. That lack of sophistication – the ease with which we process characters, for example – is co-opted into a large-scale economic activity because it is one thing that our machines just aren't good at, yet. There as always been a limit to the skill of machines, always something just out of their reach.

It does not seem to be considered that there are, perhaps, some things that computers should not do at all. This is the totalizing siren song of the technology sector. Woefully, Von Ahn realized in CAPTCHAs “that he had unwittingly created a system that was frittering away, in ten-second increments, millions of hours of a most precious resource: human brain cycles.” That is, has been, and always will be, unacceptable. Thompson, one more time:

“Since the late 1990s, scientists have been recruiting people to download special screen savers that devote spare computing power to projects ranging from the search for extraterrestrial life to climate modeling. The difference with reCAPTCHA is that humans are doing the computing, without necessarily realizing it.”