New Criticals

At the moment where labor appears most likely to slip from an active role, subordinate to faster and more cost-effective computers, it re-emerges as a valuable resource against an (economic) institution’s chosen method of control. What does that lead to, or where? Lev Grossman: “The faster the software evolves, and the harder it gets it distinguish between people and computers, the faster CAPTCHAs have to change. They might soon involve identifying animals or listening to a sound file – anything computers aren’t good at (what’s next? Tasting wine? Composing a sonnet?).” What's next indeed? 

CAPTCHAs defend an idealized Internet-space by evoking familiar anxieties, “rogue computer programs masquerading as teenagers….creating havoc” on the web through stealing personal information, dumping UBE, and sending malware.  Notions of perversion, invasion, corruption, and abuse saturate the discourse on UB (not to mention hacker discourse writ large). A CAPTCHA should make us think about work, but the discourse instead focuses on what makes us human and how to define and maintain that difference against not just computers, but a class of computer criminals.