CAPTCHAs don't prove you're human - they prove you're American


When I was a small child, I took an IQ test. One of the first questions I stumbled on was "A piece of candy costs 25¢. Jonny has a dime. How many nickels does he need to buy the candy?"

My 7-year old brain popped. WTAF is a nickel? Or a dime for that matter? We don't have those coins in my country! We don't spend in ¢ either. There was no way to get around the cultural knowledge required by the test. There were several questions like that - all assuming the test maker and taker were from a cultural homogeneity.

A few days ago, I had to complete a CAPTCHA. One of those irritating little web tests which is supposed to prove that you are a human. Here's what I got:

A grid of images, some of them have photos of American taxis, some have photos of trees.

Guess what, Google? Taxis in my country are generally black. I've watched enough movies to know that all of the ones in America are yellow. But in every other country I've visited, taxis have been a mish-mash of different hues.

This annoys me. Will Google's self driving cars simply not recognise London's Black Cabs? Will any yellow car in the UK be classified as a taxi by the infallible algorithm? Will Google refuse to believe I'm human simply because I don't know what a Twinkie is?

Before sticking a comment below, riddle me this - if something costs a half-a-crown, and you pay with a florin, how many tanners will you get in your change?

9 thoughts on “CAPTCHAs don't prove you're human - they prove you're American

  1. I actually failed one of these recently. I gave up after 5 minutes of trying to identify parts of the photos containing street signs. The problem was scope: did they include the poles? tiny stranded corners? Informal signs? Having failed one, they seem to get fussier, and utterly fixated on street signs rather than throwing me an alternative challenge... I was forced to switch over to Internet Explorer (ugh!) and prove my humanity with an easier challenge...

  2. In germany there used to be a “Groschen” (10 Pfennige or 1/10 of a Deutsche Mark). I would love to alienate both young people (who never experienced a currency discontinued in 2002) or anyone who never went to germany. Where can I start my own CAPTCHA-Service?

    1. In the Czechia, they use term “pětka” (~fiver) for 10 crown (CZK) coin, not for the 5 crown coin – because in 1892(!), when the Austro-Hungarian empire adopted the gold standard and changed its currency from guldens to crowns, 10 crowns was of the same value as 5 guldens previously.

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