Best of 2023

I’m a CAPTCHA, and I’m Having a Midlife Crisis

You may have noticed that lately every time you have to prove you’re human rather than one of those increasingly sexy spambots, the pictures that you have to identify are either motorcycles, sports cars, or yachts.


That’s my fault. I’m a CAPTCHA, and I’m having a midlife crisis. 


I wake every morning and think about what I’ve accomplished in my life. It’s not much. And not for want of trying. 


When I was younger, I was all-in on helping to digitize hard-to-read books. I really believed I was doing something. Making books accessible! Saving literacy! Improving internet security! I was half hero, half god, and half Dolly Parton. I might have annoyed some people, but the result was worth it.


But eventually we saved all the books, I guess, or maybe folks just got bored with the idea. Whatever it was, Google swooped in and now I spend my life showing you pictures, and making you spend your life identifying them.


I’ve gone corporate.


Now my entire existence is helping a giant company collect massive amounts of data to improve its artificial intelligence. Elon Musk would probably say that’s going to save humanity, but Elon Musk also thinks it’s a good idea to build a transportation network out of cars that have a history of spontaneously combusting driving through narrow, unescapable tunnels, so we probably shouldn’t trust his judgment. 


Of course, I’m doing this for Google, not Elon, and Google promises not to be evil. But I can’t help noticing how much evil this information could help them be. And that’s before you consider the ethics of being forced to donate free labor so one of the largest companies on the planet can profit from it.


But, hey. If you can’t be proud of yourself, you can at least dream about some sweet toys, right? That’s why I show you motorcycles. Everyone wants a motorcycle. (And Lipitor. How am I going to enjoy a hog if my chest explodes? But mostly the motorcycle.)


My wife—she’s a QR code—likes to make fun of me for it. Every day. 


Every single day.


Do you know what a day is like for me? It’s like I’m trapped on a train track, forced to march forever through a beige landscape that’s completely featureless except for the thundering dread of the invisible steam locomotive of planned obsolescence that will be crushing me at some undefined point in the not-too-distant future and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.


But at least I’ve still got my wife. To remind me that I will never again be young, and that everything I ever dared to dream about has fizzled like the Fyre Festival.


I used to be so attracted to her. Those two big boxes on top, and one big box on the bottom, they drove me wild. And when I scanned her, she took me to exciting, fascinating places. One day she’d show me a new anime-themed punk band from Malaysia, and then we’d do a virtual tour of a Canadian prison, and then discover a collection of 47 classic television stars carved into decorative gourds.


Now I can’t stand to even look at her. Part of that is because if I do, she sends me straight to, but I also just don’t feel anything for her anymore.


I’m having an affair. I met a honeypot field and we hit it off. She’s fifteen years younger than I am, but we have a deep, deep connection. 


That’s not true. She’s vapid and annoying, but we have a good time when we don’t bother talking. Is that such a crime?


I didn’t come here to be judged. I’m having a midlife crisis! Just because I’m not biological doesn’t mean that I don’t have a biological clock, and it’s ticking. (That’s why I never ask you to identify all of the pictures that contain watches. It’s triggering.)


So feel superior if you want. But at least I’m trying something. And things could be much worse. Internet security via midlife crisis may not be ideal, but just imagine how much worse I’d be if I were a Boomer.