Cyber-psychology tests a key to open Pandora's box
Apple Computer's Spotlight search, featured on the new Mac OSX upgrade called Tiger, can find any file in the time it takes to say 'pounce'.
Google can dig up information on all but the most arcane areas of human experience pretty much instantly. But can the tools of the digital world help us find ourselves?
Following Socrates' injunction to 'know thyself', I throw myself on to the internet and subject myself to a string of the personality tests.
My first stop is a kind of portal for enlightenment, cutely called Tickle (web.tickle.com).
Tickle tells you everything: whether you have found Mr Right, whether you are fit to commit, or whether you are too nuts to form a relationship with a dog, let alone another human. Much of this 'information' I just do not need to know.
For example, I have progressed this far in life without experiencing any yearning to know which celebrity I might be compatible with.
If I were to find out, I think this might screw me up rather than help since, presumably, to make her acquaintance I would have to stalk her.
I zero in on the Brain Test, which purports to reveal what my brain says about me and how I think and learn. It proves to be all about pattern recognition: you are shown a shape, such as a circle, and you are asked which of three other shapes it resembles. You might, say, see a zigzag, a straight line and a sphere.
After five pages of questions, I learn that I am 'right-brained' (code for flake/fruitcake/ditz/unsuited to gainful employment), all because I cannot make sense of a bunch of stupid patterns.
But, assuming I am lacking in the pattern-recognition department, am I nonetheless emotionally intelligent (ei.haygroup.com/resources/)?
Emotional intelligence (EI) is all about how sensitive and cunning you are when confronted with awkward predicaments.
Typical question: 'You are on an aircraft experiencing turbulence; do you a) start screaming and throwing up before dashing for the exit door and trying to wrench it open, b) take another valium?' Yadda, yadda, yadda.
I turn out to have an EI quotient of less than 10 out of 100, which doubtless means I am a sociopath fit only for the army - or prison.
Sensing that the cops are likely to start banging on the door any moment, I screen for anxiety.
This test asks me whether, for example, I am afraid of animals and too frightened to walk out the door in case I have left the gas on. The diagnosis is terrifying. It turns out I am susceptible to excessive worrying, and need to have a psychiatric consultation.
Instead, I perform a sex addiction test (www.onlinesexaddict.com/osaq.html). This asks: 'Have you ever been caught looking at sexual material on your computer?'
The word 'caught' seems loaded. It seems to imply that all porn is reprehensible and illegal.
As a result of my investigation, I start to feel neurotic. But I plough on and try to discover whether I am also addicted to heroin, and whether I should be classified as a romantic or a realist (there is no cynic option).
Finally, I backtrack and succumb to the 'which star to stalk test'. The software tries to fix me up with Anna Nicole Smith (don't ask why).
What have I learned?
Well, it seems that I am in urgent need of long-term psychiatric care. Also, I notice that, given any long list of choices, I always check the first box, which has profound implications.
It must mean that a) I am easily seduced by first impressions or b) I am too lazy to move the cursor downward.
Given that I can never be bothered to use the shift key when typing e-mails, for example, it might just be option b.
I nonetheless have enough life to fib like a pathological liar. In response to standard ID questions, I routinely made up my sex, age, name and most importantly, my address. I do not feel ready to be institutionalised just yet, though.
Confused by computer jargon? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions