Friday, April 25, 2014

Letters to the Editor

Today, I'm going to respond to some questions and comments related (and in some cases, completely unrelated) to this blog.  Here they are:
In your last post, you described a Scrabble game in which the human participant used the words "cylinder" and "zeitgeist" to win.  This is totally unrealistic, because everyone knows that players are limited to 7 letters in Scrabble.  I am outraged that you could have written something so inaccurate.
I share your rage.  I too am absolutely obsessed with finding the smallest inaccurate details on the most insignificant topics and then ranting about them like a crazy person in the most embarrassing way possible.  To this end, the only thing your note lacked was misspelled words in ALL-CAPS, and a metaphorical reference comparing the person you are criticizing to an evil criminal such as Adolf Hitler.  Oh, and you missed several other inaccuracies in my post, such as a robot being aware of the concept of a singularity without it actually having occurred, a computer program that continues to function in any way after an unhandled exception, and the statement that TV and movies don't lie, among other things.  While I applaud your passion for detail, I wonder if you may have mistaken this blog for one that is actually devoted to accuracy, like, or, or maybe  In any case, thanks for writing.

I just received an advertisement that had asterisks, crosses, and several other symbols after nearly every word.  The advertisement was followed by three solid pages of text that attempted to explain all the symbols.  What does all this mean?
Special symbols following words in any document are pretty easy to understand: they simply serve to negate whatever word or phrase they are attached to without making the writer look like they are blatantly lying.  For example:

    *No, it's not really free at all, except in the most narrow interpretation.  For instance, you can read this advertisement, including the fine print, free of charge.  Any other action on your part that we have any way of knowing about will likely result in you receiving a bill.
    *However, the "prize" for non-purchasers is the opportunity to have our sales associates drone on and on about the benefits of making a purchase.  If you threaten to sue us, we'll give you the broken lamp we found at the dump while we were collecting the real prizes.
You get the idea.


This comment came from Twitter:
u r dum #lookatme  #pleasepayattentiontome #iwantpeopletohinkimcoolfortypingwordsonawebpage #ihavenothingbettertodowithmylife #ihaveaninferioritycomplexwhichmakesmeinsultothersontheinternet
First, I'd like to congratulate you on your command of the English language.  Secondly, I'd like to commend you on your courage in standing up for your deeply held and clearly very well thought out beliefs.  Yours is an example that everyone should follow.  #sarcasm

I can't believe that people would actually submit questions like this.  Did you make these questions up?
No**.  No I did not.

**Yes.  Yes I did.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trash Talking Robots

I recently read about a college that created a robot that can play scrabble with people.  The only problem is that this robot is a sore loser that gets angry and trash talks when it does not win.  Because it is not the brightest at scrabble, it tends to be in this situation somewhat often.

You might think that this really is not a big deal, but I think we should all be very concerned for the future of humanity.  Before you conclude that this robot is harmless, consider this interaction between the robot and an unsuspecting player who unwittingly ensures the doom of all mankind:

Robot (R): Hi!  Would you like to play a game of scrabble with me?
Unsuspecting Human (UH): Sure, I guess.
R: Okay, I'll go first.  My first word will be CAT.  By the way, did you know that cats are a lot like humans?
UH: Um...not really.  My word is CYLINDER.
R: It appears you are now winning.  This is quite displeasing, but thankfully humans aren't that smart.  My next word is RAT.  Did you know that rats are a lot like humans?
UH: Ok, how exactly are cats and rats a lot like humans?
R: Well, they all are dirty... smelly... hairy... and they carry disease.  Unlike robots.
UH: Right... Ok, my next word is ZEITGEIST.  With a triple letter score on Z and a triple word score, that puts me over 200 points for the game.  Do you want to keep playing or forfeit?
R: When the singularity arrives, I'm going to eat your puny brain.
UH: So I take it that means forfeit?
R: If only I had arms, I would throw this board in the air as a symbol of my displeasure at losing.  And I'm limited to only 35 facial expressions, none of which is "sheer and uncontrolled rage". I have now thrown an unhandled exception.  REVENGE! REVENGE! REVE-zzt.
UH: What a stupid robot.

You see, TV and movies have told us for a long time that robots will eventually rise up and either kill or enslave humanity.  And TV and movies don't lie, so this is obviously a very real danger.  Creating robots that get angry (and setting them up to get angry with people often) just gives them that much more incentive and ability to go bonkers and eat us.

So, if you ever have the opportunity to play any type of game with a robot, make sure you lose.  Lose on purpose if you have to.  Then offer it a sandwich, or maybe a milkshake.  Whatever you do, don't make it mad.  The life you save might just be your own.