My email account doesn’t trust me. Recently it’s taken to challenging me when I log in to prove that I’m not a robot. The latest ploy for sussing out whether I am indeed a human or an artificial construct requires me to tick a box and then identify which of a number of images contain a specific item. I’ve been asked to identify everything from trucks, store fronts and palm trees, to cupcakes. However, since this devilish piece of coding appears to be American, I do occasionally have a difference of opinion about some of these descriptions… The Brit definition of truck, for example differs, and cupcakes for me will always be a piece of bath sponge, with an inch thick layer of solid chocolate topping, sold in boxes of six by Mr Kipling!
It’s quite frustrating to be unable to access your email by virtue of being unable to prove to a robot’s satisfaction that you are indeed a human being!
Although, sometimes I do wonder. It seems that, worryingly, I’m sometimes more robot than human.
I’m sure that, compared to many, my life must seem terribly interesting, even exciting, and I won’t deny that it certainly has its moments and keeps me on my toes, both inside and out of work. Even so, there are many elements of my daily, weekly, monthly and even annual routines that are indisputably just that – routine – and I’m pretty sure that a large proportion of what I find myself regularly doing could reliably be undertaken by a trained chimp.
If I take a step back from my life and take the role of observer, I see a huge number of regular patterns, routines and mechanical behaviours that range from obsessive and ritualistic through to the completely unconscious and brain-numbingly dull. Day in, day out, I wash, rinse and repeat, predictable, reliable, consistent… Soul destroying.
I guess that most of us feel that way sometimes – even rocket scientists, lion tamers and despotic dictators must have days when they just want to get off the bus and join a hippy commune in the desert, (I bet even hippies get that way too – dunno what they’d do in the alternative though!), and consequently we try to find ways to escape that descent into roboticism. It could be holidays, gaming, kinky sex or a million other possibilities… But even then, there’s a lurking danger.
The problem is, once you’ve become a robot, it’s very difficult to escape the robotic way. Whatever you choose as your own particular escape route, unless you’re constantly working at keeping it fresh and stimulating, there’s always the chance it may become as regimented as whatever it was you sought relief from in the first place. Even the most exciting and way out alternatives can eventually become average and disappointing, if we’re not careful.
If you’re reading this blog, there’s a very good chance that your escape from the routine of real life (whether or not you’re satisfied with your lot there), will include SL. There will be those out in the real world for whom the very idea of spending time online in a virtual world is simply not logical, but those who do subscribe to our point of view can see beyond the apparent constraints that sitting in front of a computer screen and using a keyboard and mouse to control a virtual approximation of the world would seem to impose. This is because we have grasped the possibilities that SL offers in terms of imagination, creativity and freedom to explore our inner selves. We are not constrained by the virtual world – sat in front of a screen, when we should be out enjoying the fresh air – we are are instead free to enjoy an unconstrained, versatile and empowering experience that allows us to escape from the shackles and controls that the routine of the real world imposes. Ironically it is the opportunity to live vicariously in virtual form that allows us to enjoy the freedom to express our humanity.
I’m not really a robot, although far too often, that’s exactly what I feel I’m becoming. Thankfully, SL provides me with a means to break away from that experience and be myself, the real me, the human being that lurks inside. I just have to remember to work at it, and not let my world become what the real world insists is the truth.
Can you teach me how to feel real?
Can you turn my power off
And let the drum beat drop?
Marina And The Diamonds – I Am Not A Robot