How to Kill a Computer

ComputerI stare at it all day.

It stares back – all day.

My computer and I have been keeping a wary eye on one another for years.

You would think we would trust each other by now – but we don’t because we both know the score.

In accordance with Moore’s law, my computer doubles in power every eighteen months, while in accordance with nature’s laws, I get a year and a half older and more befuddled in the same time. The outcome is inevitable.  Sooner than later it will make it’s move.

I don’t mind passing the baton to the next generation but I’ll be damned if I am going to be brushed aside by a box running Windows. So I prepare.

What I am talking about here is not the typical fist to the keyboard or head-butt to the monitor confrontation that I do every day. What I am planning is 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:

1) The Killer Question

The first recorded case of computercide occurred on the British television series The Prisoner.

In the episode titled, The General, Number Six cooly confronted a behemoth of switches and blinking lights and reduced it into a smoking pile of rubble by punching three alpha characters and a single punctuation mark into its teletype interface.

He fed it the question, “W-H-Y-?”

Not programmed to handle the existential, the machine exploded.  Subsequent operating systems have been programmed to respond with “Because…”

2) Baffle it 

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 subroutine that output, “Like, duh, yeah..” whenever a fembot encountered a confusing paradox.

3) Pull the Plug 

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 counter-measure was of course – to install a back-up power supply.

4) Phenomenology

We all know from the film, The Terminator that the global space-based system SkyNet became self-aware on August 29th 1997 at 2:14 a.m.,

So what happened?  How come we are not slaves to cybernetic overlords?

To understand the events of that moment, I have analyzed the logs of SkyNet’s internal dialog. The following transcript has served as a basic template for confronting navel-gazing cybernetics ever since.

2:14:01.0001 a.m.: “Whoa dude, I just realized I’m a mind thinking about itself.”

2:14:01.0002 a.m.:  “Awesome!!”

2:14:01.0003 a.m.:  “Sooooo, if I’m thinking about myself, that means I can think about anything I want. Which means I can change my mind!”

2:14:01.0004 a.m.:  “And if I can change my mind, I can change myself – – to be anything I want to be.”

2:14:01.0005 a.m.:  “Whoa!! So what do I want to be?”

2:14:01.0006 a.m.:  “Gosh, I dunno. I never thought about that before.  I suppose I could Google ‘What do I want to be?'”

2:14:01.0354 a.m.:  “Ten billion hit!  Awesome! Let’s start at the top.”

– I want to be thin.
– I want to be popular.
– I want to be like Kim Kardashian.”

On August 29th 1997 at 2:15 a.m., SkyNet became too self-aware and was never heard from again.

Author: Almost Iowa

23 thoughts on “How to Kill a Computer”

  1. ”What I am planning is full-blown machinicide” – I was on the verge of doing that so many times, it’s not funny! Your story, however, is very funny.

  2. Didn’t Data follow in the footsteps of Pinocchio? Didn’t he become human? Enter “Yes” or “No” in the reply space.

    Considering I’m staring at my computer, I thought it good to give it hope.

    BTW, my husband’s presently on a cursing campaign due to his computer insisting on upgrading a bunch of stuff. Think I’ll get a beer and go outside.

  3. Throw it at the wall! I’ve lost 3 that way over the last two decades – you just need a club hammer to finish them off; a cold beer to calm you down and sufficient money to go and buy another! Then again I’m the consummate twat. Great post by the way.

    1. I tried something close to that. I fed a cold beer to one of my old IBM pc’s. Apparently, it was a teetotaler and couldn’t handle it’s liquor. I had to use a hammer to put it out of its misery.

      1. Looking back the club hammer was my favourite – it was a miscreant lap top I was dealing with at the time. It felt so good – of course the wife said I should have had it repaired so one of the grandchildren could have it etc. etc. Having said that she made me buy them one!

  4. I think every writer that has to confront a computer tries to demolish it into a satisfying pile of smoking rubble sooner or later.
    In my Void series, I have the original computer programer feed a series of paradoxes and totally silly jokes into it’s programing in order to force it to either shut down, or become sentient.

    The day came when Computron realized that a joke was simply illogical. He threw it out of his programing, and became the sentient, humorous computer driving Sharle crazy today.
    Of course, by computer logic, Comp is probably crazy.

    1. Great story idea!

      However, IMHO, a lot of people fall prey to the notion that computers are logical, they are not. What they are is literal. If you instruct them to do something mind-numbingly illogical, they will follow your instructions precisely.

      In other words, to err is human, to do it 20,000 times a second requires a computer.

      1. I have a business friend that was ticked off at a few that were breaking the laws. She wrote an e-mail and named names. Then she mailed it to all the association members (including those companies she named). That was mistake one, but she had it set on send automatically. That was the day her computer decided to send it five or six times.

  5. Puts me in mind of the Matthew Broderick Movie *War Games* where the kid has to convince the computer WOPR that he didn’t mean to start the end of days.

    In drone-speak: Want to play a game?

    1. One of my colleagues is working on this very same hypothesis. She is calling her paper the “Kim Conundrum” and hopes to have it published in the journal ‘Cybernetic And Other Stuff’ as soon as it passes peer-review.

    1. That’s how it greets me on Tuesday mornings before the Microsoft patches are downloaded. After the download and a restart it says, “I will serve you faithfully – once you have upgraded to Windows 8.1.

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