Indiana Jones and the Unsolvable CAPTCHA of Doooooom

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Last week I wrote a piece about CAPTCHAs, which is the name for those images of wavy, distorted letters that you sometimes have to retype in order to make the Web give you something you want, like an email address or whatever. The point of them is to prove that you’re not a bot run by spammers, since software is very bad at reading distorted letters. I talked to one of the guys who invented the CAPTCHA, a really nice person named Luis von Ahn who’s now a professor at Carnegie Mellon. CAPTCHAs are used something like 200 million times a day online, but von Ahn doesn’t see a dime of that action. And meanwhile Mark Cuban is a billionaire. Where’s the justice?

(Incidentally, things like CAPTCHAs just have the effect of forcing software to evolve to more effectively mimic human capabilities. I’m pretty sure this is how Skynet is going to happen.)*

I mention this not just to promote my own work – because I would never do that – but because today I had the weird experience of flunking a CAPTCHA so many times I had to give up. How sad is that? The CAPTCHA was at rapidshare.com, and I was trying to download a PDF of a screenplay that purports to be Frank Darabont’s original Indy IV script, which wasn’t used. The fanboy community is rallying round it as superior to the version that was filmed, which wouldn’t be that hard. Apparently Shia LaBoeuf (sp.? I’m guessing here) isn’t in this one, and Marion has a much more active role. There’s a review of the Darabont version here.

Of course I haven’t read it, because apparently I’m a spambot. I think it’s been leaked illegally anyway. So anybody who has it, definitely don’t e-mail me a copy. That would be wrong.

*This joke originally appeared in my piece for Time, but my editor took it out because it was too nerdy and obscure

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