Burning Man 2018 to Institute CAPTCHA Protocol at Gate

San Francisco, April 4 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Fearing that too many ticket holders are in fact spambots, Burning Man has announced that this year it will introduce CAPTCHA protocols at its gate to filter them out before they enter Black Rock City.

“We’ve recently been seeing a significant upturn in the number of so-called ‘Burners’ who really just spam everyone at the event,” said Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham. “It was fine when it was a small, isolated, problem, but now there are enough that people can notice the way they’re shilling products or advertising services, and so we’re taking action.”

Tests to determine whether prospective attendees are in fact human beings will range from the simple to the highly technical.

“Honestly the most effective way to tell is just to have our volunteers ask people at the gate: ‘are you a person?’” said Gate Manager Tabitha Hewitt. “And if they respond ‘I’m a goddess!’ or ‘I work for Google!’ or ‘I know Larry!’ or something like that, we know they’re some kind of spambot.

Recent advances in Artificial Intelligence, however, mean that this test is no longer as effective as it once was. For more ambiguous cases, a modified version of the Voight-Kampff test will be utilized.

“While utilizing portable scanners to record eye movements, ticket holders will be given scenarios in which they’re walking across the desert and face basic moral choices, like whether to leave a bicycle on the ground when they leave, or whether or not to vandalize someone’s art project, or take advantage of someone when they’re intoxicated,” said Burning Man science team lead Laura Dane, who earned her PhD at Berkeley studying the environmental impact of hippies. “Based on their answers to these questions, it’s pretty easy to determine who’s a human being and who’s not, or at least who behaves like one and who doesn’t.”

According to the Burning Man Census Team, up to 20% of Burning Man attendees may be spambots, although they think it’s more likely that only 10% of the population are actually spambots, but that those spambots are major assholes.

In addition, Census estimates suggest that over 80% of spirit animals at Burning Man are in fact catfishing, and 70% of yoga instructors are only Instagram memes.

“We’ve looked, we’ve really looked,” said Census team leader DV8. “But we just can’t find any actual person behind them.”

Once inside the city, Burners could be subject to additional undisclosed CAPTCHA tests at any time, some of which will involve bacon.

“Honestly,” said Graham, “at this point we consider passing some kind of Turing Test to be an essential skill for living in the 21st century. Proving you’re human is becoming a form of Radical Self-Reliance.”

Cover photo by Terry Pratt

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat Magister

A member of Burning Man Project's Philosophical Center, Caveat served as the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca from 2008 - 2013. He is presently working with Burning Man's education program on a cultural studies curriculum for Burning Man culture. Caveat is the author of the short story collection A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City, which has nothing to do with Burning Man, and the novel The Deeds of Pounce, which is about goblins. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

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