Recognizing Robots

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been getting polite inquiries from web developers. They find me through the contact form on one of my websites, always the same one (I have three). I use commercially available software only; I don’t write code.  Whoever or whatever is sending the messages seems to know that. The texts — perhaps a dozen or so by now — vary a little in length, subtlety and literacy but are essentially the same: the senders want to let me know they are very skilled developers, and that for a price they can help me boost my sales: they boost, I pay.    

I don’t sell anything on my sites — never did, never wanted to. The developers occasionally pay compliments about what an interesting site I have, what a lot of effort must have gone into it. But they always steer carefully around any mention of content. I’m pretty sure no one has actually read a word. Yes, I’m insulted: the developers recognise me alright, not as a human being potentially possessed of brains, energy, committment, or imagination, but rather as text-generator who represents a potential souce of income and a delicious technical helplessness. What I write absolutely does not matter.

Yes, I did ask, “‘Are you a robot?’ If you don’t answer, I’ll assume the answer is ‘yes'”. They didn’t. They ARE robots. Or at best they’re a blend of roboticized humans (someone no doubt wrote the English text) and “humanised” robots. They have no particular form, no actual experience in time and space, no brains apart from a giant book of numerical instructions, and no shred or interest of concern for you or me. And I fell for it, at least for a while. The moral of the story is, I think, that it’s worth thinking again about what really makes us human. It may be some kind of genuine interest or concern for others — and it is under threat.

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