Proof of humanity required in tech age

By Helena Rodriguez

I had to provide proof the other day that I am a human being — and to a machine of all things.

I was sending out e-mails for a class project to people — you know, those real-life, in the flesh-and-blood creatures that have overtaken this planet. Anyway, I was asking these “people” to submit items to a newsletter. Then I get this response from a SPAM detection company, informing me that my e-mail has been intercepted, probably because of its “suspicious” nature. I was e-mailing more than one person at a time, something that, according to this Great Computer in Cyerspace, no sound-minded human would attempt to do, even in the interest of saving time.

So I click on the link attached to this e-mail because, well, it tells me point blank to prove that I’m a real-life human being and not a machine like it that goes around squirting out mass e-mails.

So I go to this link and then a box appears with some colorful, funky looking numbers that only a human can decode. I’m told to type these numbers into a box and hit return, thus providing proof that, in the words of J.Lo, “I’m real!”

A few minutes later, I get another e-mail from this machine, confirming something that I have strongly suspected since the day I was born, that I am, in fact, human. I’m a real human being, with feelings and all. Not just a humanoid — a phrase coined by science fiction grandmaster Jack Williamson of Portales — that means a mechanistic being with human characteristics just going through the motions.

I have feelings and occasional PMS. And, I possess the same superabilities of machines to send out mass e-mails with a single click.

Quite frankly, I was surprised this machine did not request a DNA sample from me.

I should subscribe to a service, or maybe invent one, that red flags possible SPAM detectors, telling them to prove they are machines and not actual human beings with too much time on their hands.

So this is the futuristic world that we live in today folks, a world where computers are questioning our very humanity. Proof rather than actual contact is the preferred, or rather practical method today, until someone invents a computer that can actually reach out and touch you and feel your pulse.

Now that would come in handy for these cyber doctors I just read about in The New York Times. We all know doctors no longer make house calls, but according to this story in Wednesday’s Times, more doctors are telling their patients, “Take two aspirins and e-mail me in the morning!”

These cyber doctors are answering patients’ questions via e-mail and, in some cases, are even billing the patients and insurance companies for these e-mails as actual doctor visits.

So when the computer malfunctions, does that mean patients can sue the doctor for incompetence?

I’d like to know how these cyber doctors are going to whack their patients in the knee across cyperspace to see if they get a jerk reaction. To see if the patients they are treating are, in fact, real people.

We’re having to bag our own groceries nowadays. Why not just whack ourselves in the knees too?

My guess is that at some point there’s going to have to be some kind of interaction between machines and humans. Perhaps the computers of the future will come equipped with those little metal mallets that doctors use to check our reflexes. The computers will do the knee-whacking and then inform the doctor: “Patient is responding, seems to be uttering ‘ouch’ or some other four letter word. Cannot decipher! Hearing only silence now. Patient has fallen and can’t get up! Better e-mail 9-1-1 so they can alert the Virtual EMS!’

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: