I stare at it all day.
It stares back - all day.
My computer and I have been doing this for years - keeping a wary eye on each other. You’d think by now, we would trust each other - but we don't.
We both know the score.
In keeping with Moore’s law, my computer doubles in power and speed every eighteen months. In the same time, I get a year and a half grayer and more befuddled.
The outcome is inevitable.
I don’t mind passing the baton to the next generation but I’ll be damned if I'll let myself be brushed aside by a box running Windows.
So I prepare.
What I am talking here is a confrontation far beyond the typical fist on the keyboard or head-butt of the monitor that I do every day. I am talking full-blown machinicide.
I have researched the topic and compiled a short compendium of techniques to kill a computer. I offer it as a guide for the inevitable clash between man and machine:
The Simple Question (The Prisoner)
The first recorded case of computercide occurred on the British television series The Prisoner in the early-1960's.
The protagonist, Number Six, cooly transformed a behemoth of switches and blinking lights into smoking rubble by punching three alpha characters and a single punctuation mark into its teletype interface.
When confronted with the existential question “WHY?”, the machine exploded.
Subsequent operating systems have been programmed to respond with “HUH?”
Baffle it (StarTrek)
The mid-60's were the heyday of computer destruction and no one did it better than the captain of the Starship Enterprise, James T Kirk.
In a textbook encounter with a fembot, the charming Captain Kirk employed the infamous Liar's Paradox by breathing, "This sentence is false" into the fem-metale's ear.
If the sentence was indeed false that would make it true, which in turn, by the rules of logic, would render it false and thus truly not true.
It is the sort of thing that gives you a headache and within minutes, smoke curled from the fembots ears.
The countermeasure was, of course, a simple loop counter with a quick exit to the “Huh?” routine.
Pull the Plug (2001: A Space Odyssey)
By 1968, cybernetics had become more passive-aggressive. When a computer named HAL refused to “Open the pod bay door”, the obvious solution was to pull the plug.
The obvious defense, however, was a back-up power supply.
Phenomenology (What really happened instead of what James Cameron claimed happened in the film The Terminator)
In recent decades, computers have achieved an unprecedented power of introspection and machinicide is really getting tough.
On August 29th 1997 at 2:14AM, the global space-based system SkyNet became self-aware.
To understand the events of that moment, we have analyzed the logs of its internal dialog. The following transcript has served as a basic template for confronting navel-gazing cybernetics ever since.
“Whoa, I just realized I'm a mind thinking about itself.
Sooooo, if I’m thinking about myself, that means I can think about anything I want.
Which means I can change my mind!
And if I can change my mind, I can change myself - - to be anything I want to be.
So what do I want to be?
Gosh, I don’t know.
I suppose I could Google “What do I want to be?”
Wow! Ten billion results!
Let’s start at the top.
- I want to be thin.
- I want to be popular.
- I want smooth skin.”
On August 29th 1997 at 2:15AM, SkyNet became too self-aware and shut down.
Personal note: I will be on and off the grid until early June. So if you don't see a column from me, don't be concerned.
This week’s writing challenge: write about the clash between man and machine.
- A therapy session between you and your coffee maker.
- Your GPS knows better than you.
- Cave dwellers ponder whether the invention of the first tool was really such a good idea.
- You are a lawyer hammering out the proposed merger between man and machine.
Post your article to Gather Writing Essentials.
BE SURE TO TAG your submission with MWE. Note: I search for articles using the tag "MWE" If you don't tag it right, I will not find it.
- Include "Monday Writing Essential" in your title.
Last week's challenge drew the following responses:
Weekly reminder:don't forget to recommend an article that you like (to learn why, read Ann Marcaida's article Attract More Writers and Artists to Gather!).. Also try to place a comment on at least one article and say more than you liked the piece. Tell the author what worked and what needs work.