I stare at it all day.
It stares back – all day.
My computer and I have kept a wary eye on one another for years.
One would think we could 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 and intelligence every eighteen months, while in accordance with nature’s law, I get older and more befuddled in the same time. The outcome is inevitable.
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 to defend myself.
What I am talking here is full-blown machinicide.
I 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 machine and man:
1) The Killer Question
The first recorded case of computercide occurred on the British television series The Prisoner.
In the episode, The General, The hero coolly confronts a behemoth of blinking lights and reduces it to a smoking pile of rubble by punching the following three alpha characters and a single punctuation mark into its teletype interface.
W H Y ?
Not programmed to handle the existential, the machine explodes.
Subsequent operating systems have been programmed to respond with:
2) Baffle it
By the mid-60’s, computer destruction became commonplace 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 femme-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 fembot’s ears.
The countermeasure was a simple subroutine that output “Like duh, yeah..” whenever a fembot encountered a confusing paradox.
3) Pull the Plug
Later in the decade, cybernetics evolved as 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 to install a back-up power supply.
We all know from The Terminator that SkyNet, a space-based defense system, became self-aware on August 29th 1997 at precisely 2:14 a.m.
So what happened?
Why have we not become slaves to cybernetic overlords?
To understand the events of that moment, analysts have poured over SkyNet’s logs. 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 hits! 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.