reCAPTCHA is a service you may have come across that presents you with a small test to verify you are a human being. Typically the combination of the two words is meaningless; however, today I experienced a genuine laugh when posting some comments to a site.
When the service first came out, there was only one word – or group of characters strung together. I watched a video with the author of the program, a 20 something genius who works at an Ivy League school. He effectively created a method of insuring that it was a human entering data into the form (as opposed to a bot), but he worried that he was now causing a significant universal waste of time. By adding up the number of captcha images served and averaging 5-10 seconds per test, the results were startlingly immense. What he did was figure out a way for all that linked up human power to be put to good use. Now when you fill one of these forms out, you’re actually helping to transcribe old New York Times and other archival type content into digital form. Turns out the older typefaces and typesetting isn’t scannable by machine – so each time you fill one of these out, you’re contributing to the indexing of millions and millions of old articles, books, etc.