Robots Outsmart the “I am not a robot” Test

3 mins read

by Katelynn Fleming

We have all been on one website or another that required us to click “I am not a robot” or type the letters in a distorted image of a word to prove we are human. These tests are called CAPTCHAs, an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” According to the B.B.C., A.I. programmers at an artificial intelligence firm founded by Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg called Vicarious have developed an algorithm that imitates how the human brain responds to visual cues so effectively that it can already outsmart the newer and more difficult reCAPTCHA test 66.6 percent of the time. Where did they get their inspiration? Why, the human brain of course. The machine is made of what programmers call “artificial neurons” arranged in a many-layered network. Each of the hundreds of layers inspects a specific part of the problem, and all the results are analyzed to culminate in a final conclusion, with the result being that the computer can, like us, recognize symbols and letters even when distorted.


The CAPTCHA already upgraded its security by making its tests more difficult in 2013 after Vicarious announced that it could crack the test with 90 percent accuracy, according to the B.B.C. Because of this more recent leap, CAPTCHA tests may soon be obsolete; as the B.B.C. quotes cybersecurity architect Simon Edwards, “We’re not seeing attacks on CAPTCHA at the moment, but within three or four months, whatever the researchers have developed will become mainstream, so CAPTCHA’s days are numbered.” With this newly discovered flaw, cybersecurity experts expect that websites protected by CAPTCHA will likely be under assault by “have-a-go hackers,” sooner rather than later, so a new system will need to be produced as quickly as possible. A leading option is two-factor authentication, which adds another layer of security by asking a question that requires the user to input information that only they would know.  

While this advancement may seem like more of a bother than a help, it also seems to mimic natural Darwinistic coevolution in an artificial intelligence setting. Separated from nature in an increasingly digital world, it seems clear that we and our creations will evolve nonetheless.

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