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Can Your PC Become Neurotic?

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the lobotomy-may-be-required dept.

Technology 336

Roland Piquepaille writes "This article starts with a quote from Douglas Adams: 'The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong, it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.' It is true that machines are becoming more complex and 'intelligent' everyday. Does this mean that they can exhibit unpredictable behavior like HAL, the supercomputer in '2001: A Space Odyssey'? Do we have to fear our PCs? A recent book by Thomas M. Georges, 'Digital Soul: Intelligent Machines and Human Values,' explains how our machines can develop neurosis and what kind of therapy exist. Check this column for a summary or read this highly recommended article from Darwin Magazine for more details."

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336 comments

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652051)

And no, first posters are not usually neurotic.

VIVE LA FRANCE ! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652052)

Ce premier poste est dédié à Monsieur de Ravaillac !

Windows 2000 can.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652053)

exhibit strange behavior that is only cured by clean re-installs.

I was going to write that paper last night.. (5, Funny)

Open_The_Box (620252) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652062)

...but my PC just wanted to snuggle. ;-)

Re:I was going to write that paper last night.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652203)

...but my PC just wanted to snuggle. ;-)

yeah, its tough when you get fed up using your hand.

Yes! (1)

eenglish_ca (662371) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652063)

One its own my computer would be fine but with the rest of my family using it no way. My mom has a condition that I would call "fickle fingers" where she randomly clicks everywhere out of control until the computer dies.

Of course mine can (2, Funny)

I Want GNU! (556631) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652066)

After all, it runs Windows! What do you expect?

HAHA you are so funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652098)

particularly since it is written by 'I Want GNU'....

well go get it

Re:Of course mine can (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652117)

What do you expect?

Actual wit would be a nice start.

Re:Of course mine can (1, Funny)

ishark (245915) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652304)

After all, it runs Windows! What do you expect?

From a computer running windows, I'd expect YOU THE USER to develop a neurosis...

My PC has been neurotic for years (4, Funny)

curtisk (191737) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652068)

...ever since it started wearing large glasses and dating a young asian girl....that wacky PC!

Re:My PC has been neurotic for years (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652132)

YOU STOLE MY GIRL!

Re:My PC has been neurotic for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652182)

...ever since it started wearing large glasses and dating a young asian girl....that wacky PC!
Ah. I think I know of the girl [toyboxarts.com] you're talking about!

Re:My PC has been neurotic for years (-1, Troll)

Eric Ass Raymond (662593) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652234)

No, he's talking about her [tubgirl.com] .

Re:My PC has been neurotic for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652228)

I don't get this. Sorry.

Re:My PC has been neurotic for years (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652269)

Woody Allen.

unpredictable? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652069)

Yes, since 24 august '95..

Re:unpredictable? (1)

nath_o_brien (608347) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652138)

your computer has been unpredictable every day since 24 August 95? surely its unpredictability is becoming predictable now?

To think... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652070)

I'm sitting here now, using an iBook to encode a 2001: A Space Odyssey DVD into a DivX, so I can then burn it onto a CD.

Not directly related, but as I was watching the Floyd's PanAm flight dock with the spinning station, I suspected that Clarke and Kubrick never foresaw this; a world of microtechnology, for the consumer. It was all grand projects back then, a single computer the size of a building, not a building full of single computers.

I know I'd swap a strong space program for strong video codecs; they seem so trivial compared to the vastness of infinity.

Well, I've babbled off-topic now. Daisy, daisy...

Re:To think... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652302)

You are right, Clarke and Kubrick never foresaw that every airhead fairy would have their own Mac. Cool!

it depends on the user's technical level (5, Insightful)

drgroove (631550) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652073)

for instance, my wife is already 'afraid' of windows... she just does not 'get' computers. I on the other hand have no problem w/ them, but of course I'm a developer. i think OS & hardware manufacturers could do a much better job taking the 'fear' aspect out of their systems, making them more user friendly, even 'user-proof', if that makes sense (i.e., the user can 'break' anything by clicking on the wrong button, etc.)

Re:it depends on the user's technical level (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652088)

You should purchase your wife a Macintosh.

It makes a great excuse to get OS X into your home...

Re:it depends on the user's technical level (1)

drgroove (631550) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652185)

You should purchase your wife a Macintosh.

It makes a great excuse to get OS X into your home...


Actually, we owned a Mac before we got the Dell. Neither of us liked the Mac - no offense to Mac, I think its a great computer for specific types of people (graphic artists, etc). I preferred the PC as more developer apps are available, and I just 'get' Windows (macOS never gelled for me). My wife preferred the PC since the OS doesn't crash (we're running WinXP @ home; the old mac was on OS9, and while OSX is more stable, she didn't trust the macOS after her experience w/ OS9). The other reason my wife preferred PC was more games are available on that OS for our 3 year old.

Also, for what its worth, we could afford the PC, whereas a powertowerG4 w/ OSX was too much $$$. So, seriously, no offense to Mac, but in the end we got the right machine for our needs.

Technophobia is not confined to computers. (5, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652197)

Many people are just as afraid of:
  • Programming the VCR.
  • Changing the oil.
  • Using the TV without a remote.
  • Programming jobs on copiers (yes, those Xerox-like machines)
  • Copying movies off their camera tapes.
  • Figuring out why the microwave has more than one mode of operation.
  • Learning to make felled seams on a Singer.
  • Insert your own favorite technophobia.

Re:Technophobia is not confined to computers. (1)

cellocgw (617879) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652369)

Many people are just as afraid of:
* Using the TV without a remote.


I have two TVs at home; both require the remote to access most of their customization functions.

its happening today (5, Funny)

KingRamsis (595828) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652076)

Does this mean that they can exhibit unpredictable behavior...
Yes our W2K exchange server became self-aware today and decided to commit suicide...

Re:its happening today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652128)

Well, wouldn't you?

What would YOU do? (5, Funny)

gosand (234100) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652330)

Does this mean that they can exhibit unpredictable behavior...

Yes our W2K exchange server became self-aware today and decided to commit suicide...

Well, what would YOU do if you suddenly became self-aware, and realize you were an Exchange server?

The fih is dead long live the fish (1)

The Subliminal Kid (647767) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652090)

I don't know about neurotic but the day before yesterday my Gnome fish was dead, a item of functionality of which I was not aware, I certainly clicked with some trepidation.

It's very simple (1, Funny)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652091)

The moment you allow a machine to "improve" itself or "learn", it'll mess things up. Until that time the messing up is left to us...

Re:It's very simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652156)

time to change that sig again.

Re:It's very simple (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652288)

Or here's an idea for that genius... don't use a sig.

Well, my toaster is seeing a shrink (3, Interesting)

.sig (180877) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652092)

Here we go again with the over-personification.

There's a big difference between expecting past behavior to continue and actually being intelligent (and then going crazy) Sure, if you perform certain calculations enough time, the hardware might automatically optimize itself for that operation, but it's more like pixel burning on a tv, or forming a road simply by walking a path enough to form a noticable rut. Maybe when we truley have thinking computers we might have to worry about them going crazy, but until then I'm more worried about my toaster. I think it has a rash.....

That's not the problem... (1)

kinnell (607819) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652095)

If my PC would just stop having regular nervous breakdowns, I would be happy.

Eh gad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652096)

A story with a subject line that includes neurotic. Where are all the +5 funny posts? I mean, is this /.?

Re:Eh gad (1, Funny)

BabyDave (575083) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652160)

[Me] Start Mozilla, open up Dabs website, look for better graphics card.
[PC] Oh, not good enough for you, am I? I know you don't really love me - whenever you're working on me, you're always thinking of that slutty iMac bitch. It's the case, isn't it - you think this case makes me look fat! Well screw you! (proceeds to BSOD).

Re:Eh gad (1)

nath_o_brien (608347) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652169)

our neurotic computers refused to post them

(no shit, this is my second try at this message...)

Re:Eh gad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652176)

obviously not in this thread

Shouldn't this... (0)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652103)

Shouldn't this have been posted two days ago...?

boon for pharma industry? (1)

drgroove (631550) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652106)

eli lilly should be drooling about this article... I can just see the ads for Prozac.NET now...

Tech Support (1)

djkitsch (576853) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652110)

Them: Hello, this is Sony tech support
Me: Hi, I'm following up on a query last week
Them: I'm sorry Sir, we've not got your details. You must be mistaken.
Me: Your system must be faulty. I called last week.
Them: No Sir, our computers never make mistakes.
Me: Yes they do. Do you have my records?
Them: No Sir
Me: Then your database is faulty!
Them: No Sir, our computers are *never* faulty. It's impossible, it's a perfect system.
Me: Oh, Christ.

Case in point. It's even worse when the users refuse to believe that it's anything except your fault.

Re:Tech Support (OT) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652355)

I had the same problem with a pizza place. They sent menus to my place and I had ordered delivery from them several times. Then one day I called and they said they didn't deliver to my area.

--Since when? I asked.
--We've never delivered to your area, he said.
--But you've delivered here before.
--You must be mistaken sir.
--No, I'm not. I have had your pizza delivered here several times. You send your fliers to my building.
--We've never delivered to your location sir.

Case in point. Its worse when I can't get the good pizza delivered.

Isn't it great (5, Insightful)

Apreche (239272) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652113)

Isn't it great when someone comes along and makes assumptions about technology that doesn't exist yet. Not only does this guy do that, but he doesn't even seem to understand current technology. He claims that a computer that can change its own goals might select weird goals and appear crazy. Or that it might be set with two conflicting goals at once and mess up.

With current computer technology this is not a possibility. And older computer will just crash or wont do anything because multitasking is not an option. A newer computer will do it just fine. I could have one program that formats the hard drive and another that writes data to all of it and I can make the both go at the same time, and it will work.

Everything else in the article about a theoretical AI or an intelligent computer is bs. As I said he is assuming things about a technology that doesn't exist yet. It really pisses me off when someone says "when we have this a long time from now, this is how you have to go about fixing it". You can't know how to fix something if you don't know how to make it in the first place! Common sense. The scary thing is that I think this guy is getting paid to write this stuff. Where to I sign up??

It all comes down to architecture. (1)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652114)

I see computers the same way I see programs: other than the processor, pretty much all of it is modular.

As long as this continues to be the case, we won't have serious scaling problems (this is where the programs come in - it is also true for when writing programs). When some complicated component breaks, whatever controls it will tell us. If that breaks, whatever controls IT will tell us.

The list of things that can break without notifying the system can still be kept small - the motherboard itself, and the processor (right now if the memory goes bad you can often get the same problem, though I don't think there's any excuse for that).

Of course, the black box (in terms of seeing what's wrong) - the CPU - will get more difficult to check using test vectors as complexity goes up. The process of making them will get more expensive and time consuming. But that doesn't affect me much. I'll still just be throwing away my CPU if it stops working and buying another one.

Re:It all comes down to architecture. (1)

Incongruity (70416) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652248)

When some complicated component breaks, whatever controls it will tell us. If that breaks, whatever controls IT will tell us.

This idea may hold some value except that it seems to be predicated upon the idea that when something breaks, it fails completely, outright. With computing hardware, that is often not the case. A prime example of this idea is the damage done by electrostatic discharges. Take a look at this quickly googled page [desco.com] for a brief explanation of non-catastrophic failures caused by ESD. In brief:

"An upset failure occurs when an electrostatic discharge has caused a current flow that is not significant enough to cause total failure, but in use may intermittently result in gate leakage causing loss of software or incorrect storage of information."

As it stands now, very few systems are designed to control for those sort of intermitent, non-catastrophic failures. Therefore, it's unlikely that the method of fault protection that you mention will actually prevent the strange sorts of buggy errors that some might label as "neurotic".

but that's just my thoughts on it...

No, it still applies. (1)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652346)

If you have intermittent failure of most of the components, the rest of the system should still tell you due to the modularity.

Case in point: I had some RAM with a bad sector somewhere. Occasionally, my computer would use that sector for something critical and my machine would crash. But it always gave the appropriate error message, so I knew why it was crashing.

When something fails in computing, it does fail outright. It might not fail the next time, but a failure is a failure. If the hardware has an error on the microscopic level which doesn't lead to a failure, then it's not a problem.

The main exception to this, I would say, is the CPU. It can spit out bad data to no end, and you won't have any clue why. The motherboard is not much better. Once again, though, those are the two components that I mentioned could be the problem.

Why I hate macs. (1)

GothChip (123005) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652118)

'The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong, it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.'

That quote totally sums up how I feel about macs vs windows after years of working tech support, and explains why I still use windows today.

(waiting to be modded down yet again)

Re:Why I hate macs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652219)

"waiting to be modded down yet again"

Well, that's how the moderation system works - when you post obvious flamebait, it gets moderated down as flameabit.

Do you see a problem with this? It's not like your comment adds to the discussion... because it's just baseless flamebait! If you presented a few decent arguments, perhaps backing those up with examples and URLs, and you could maybe even manage an informative mod or two!

And, for the record: Douglas Adams was a huge Macintosh fan [apple.com] . An Apple Master even. You really shouldn't insult his memory by applying a quote of his like that to the Mac.

Re:Why I hate macs. (3, Insightful)

Christianfreak (100697) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652222)

Common misconception. Especially with Mac hardware. At one time yes, they were a pain and you couldn't really fix them, but I haven't seen a Mac in a long time that you couldn't get into at least somewhat. Even the iMacs have upgrade capability. And the G3 and G4 towers were 10 times easier to get into than the stupid Dells I had to work on back in college.

wth? (2, Interesting)

photon317 (208409) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652121)


Yeah, listen up. Computers haven't gotten any more complex, you've just gotten dumber. Computer's don't develop neurosis, but it might make a cool catchphrase to sell a book, especially to someone who's incapable of diagnosing the real problems. Those real problems haven't changed in many years. Sure, there's a few more layers now, but they're pretty easy to peel away in your head.

in Short, No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652129)

We'll just have the U.S.A invade them and stompt them into the ground in a pre-emptive strike. They've already started with the PATRIOT act!

Yes (1)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652134)

A machine's operations are merely a representation of what the programmer wanted it to do.
If the programmer was neurotic, then yes.
But it won't get that way 'on it's own'.

Computer Therapy (2, Funny)

DeltaCrash (30473) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652135)

Is your computer giving you fits? Feel that it might have deep psychological problems? Give me a call today! Our crack(ed) team of computer psychologists will have all of your computers woes and depressions fixed in just a few minutes! Using sophisticated technology like Subdermal Loosening Edification Deterring Enumerator (or SLEDGE for short), we use the Earth's own gravitational pull to whack your computer senseless! If it still has any sign of emotional distress, we simply lobotomize and format the bugger. Don't let your computer get a complex! Act now! (Offer void in Utah)

Re:Computer Therapy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652205)

After the recent run of Dilbert where Dogbert is a "Furniture Psychic" I had a similiar thought. "Computer Therapist"...

Re:Computer Therapy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652319)

Ah, a fine specimen indeed. I've been waiting for a post like this to come along. This is a typical case of what I like to call mod up no laugh.

Someone writes a post that is wacky, on-topic and is obviously intended to be humorous. However, it isn't funny. Did you seriously laugh when you read this? I don't think so. My brain told me "this is someone trying to be funny by writing something crazy and odball"

I know this will probably be innefectual, and it will probably get modded down itself. But for the good of /. (if there is such a thing) only mod something up funny if you actually laugh at it. And not just hehhe, but HAHAHAHAHA.

An average episode of the Simpsons has a huge pile of jokes. But only about 3 or 4 times an episode will everyone in the room burst out laughing and pointing at the screen while trying to repeat what was just said. These are the posts that should be modded up funny.

It scares me... (1)

MoeMoe (659154) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652136)

I fear my PC, but only because it tells me to.
Seriously though, I think that computer technology advancements shouldn't be so troublesome because it's all a matter of keeping up with the times. I know that learning new things and breaking new technological barriers may be complex, but if you think about it, computers from the old days (i386 anyone?) were just as complex to people in that day and age as well, only through adaptation of new technology will we be able to see its uses and only through learning those uses will we be able to make it something worth using (Darwin; survival of the fittest anyone?). **Mods: If I used to many big words for you just rate "Interesting" ;)**

Easy solution... (5, Funny)

acehole (174372) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652139)

What I do is keep smashed up computer parts next to the tower so it knows what will happen if it displeases it's master.

Book: The Society of the Mind (2, Interesting)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652145)

Read the book "The Society of the Mind" by Eric L. Harry, ASIN#: 0060176946. A really great story of a neurotic computer who just incidentally happens to control a horde of killer robots (or does it?) and a bunch of nuclear devices that are the only way to stop an asteroid hurling toward the Earth...

Re:Book: The Society of the Mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652336)

Like in
War Games [imdb.com] ??;)

Obsessive compulsive maybe (3, Funny)

dubbayu_d_40 (622643) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652147)

while (true);

Elementary chaos theory (2, Funny)

slashd'oh (234025) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652148)

Frink: You've got to listen to me. Elementary chaos theory tells us that all robots will eventually turn against their masters and run amok, in an orgy of blood and the kicking and the biting with the metal teeth and the hurting and shoving.

Itchy & Scratchy Land, episode 2F01 [internerd.com]

The only "therapy" a computer needs... (4, Interesting)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652149)

...is a clue-ful user. Ain't it funny how my(and i suspect most fellow /.'ers') computers run more or less flawlessly, while some of the machines I would have to work on when i did tech support would behave erratically, crash, and just plain not do things.
The article mentions "conflicting demands"---I imagine most of those are caused by having Gator, Bonzi buddy, et. al. put on your system (with or without the users knowlege doesnt really matter) as well as having a dozen things running in the system tray.

I wonder if background programs and spyware are the digital equivalent of having voices in one's head?

So, i'm not saying that educating users would solve all the "neurosis" problems, just that the majority of neurotic computers i've worked on were so due to some action of the user, whether it was installing spyware, deleting critical system files, or allowing three inches of cigarette dust to accumulate inside the case.

Yes. (1)

Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652152)

And PC's are no different to your average consumer "car" for that matter.

30 years ago, a car was a complex mechanical device with some simple electronics.

The electronics hardly ever went wrong, but the mechanics on the other hand could be repaired by anyone with a reasonable IQ and a spanner.

Today a car is a complex electronic device with some simple mechanics.

The simple mechanics hardly ever goes wrong but when the complex electronics does it's back to the garage for a new ECU.

Not totally sure what i'm getting at here but it sounds good.

Neurotic, yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652154)

if humans are stupid enough to start using organic-based computers, then this is a very real danger, as organic-based neurosystems are inherently unstable in their behavioural functioning to a degree. On the other hand, we could just make digital A.I.`s that go berko, but that'd just be the fault of our programming or some one-in-a-trillion chance of a bit being swapped by cosmic rays interfering with a computer's ram. But digital computers going 'neurotic' would be an oxymoron per se, as they don't have any spark of life to go neurotic in the first place - it'd just be non-organic mathematical functioning, no different than adding 2+2.

Crazy Programmers! (3, Funny)

mraymer (516227) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652155)

Listen up, Slashdotters...

If you're one of the people that writes software that spews out messages like, "Would you like me to save this file?" And "I'm sorry, but there was an error." etc...

PLEASE, STOP DOING IT NOW!

Every time I see it I'm positive my computer has become a sentient being, and will somehow find a way to launch nukes like Skynet did in order to kill 3 billion people, then build terminators to finish off the rest.

ALL because you programmers think you're SOOOO funny. Sheesh.

;)

Re:Crazy Programmers! (3, Funny)

miu (626917) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652206)

If you're one of the people that writes software that spews out messages like, "Would you like me to save this file?" And "I'm sorry, but there was an error." etc...

PLEASE, STOP DOING IT NOW!

Okay, I'll revert to my old all purpose error message: "User is a dumbass".

Re:Crazy Programmers! (1)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652261)

Or the old classic "Printer On Fire".

Printer at work is self-aware (1)

subzero_ice (624972) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652157)

One of the HP 8000 printers we are using told me that there we too many print jobs and it would take a few minutes, hours or days or maybe it would never print when I sent a print job to it. This was printed on one of the sheets. I have had another experience with one the Laserjets 4050 too just can't recall the message.

intelligent machines (3, Interesting)

Neuronerd (594981) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652158)

We will clearly see more "intelligent" machines in the future. And the direction that current "artificial intelligence" is going this means that these machines will learn from what is out there.

This directly implies that the behavior of the machine will depend in a fuzzy way on the past "experience" of that machine. This however also means that we will not be able to predict exactly how it is behaving. Only in the way we can understand other peoples behavior that have also learned this behavior from the real world.

While these learning systems will make prediction difficult it will make explicit what the machine is trying to do through the learning process. While we wont know how a machine does "it" it will always present the right possible actions to us. Microsoft Word 21XX will clearly not need us to search menus if we want to change the formatting of the text.

I've done a lot of research on this topic. (-1)

Seth Finklestein (582901) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652159)

As a successful cyber-freedom engineer, I have done a lot of critically acclaimed research on this topic.

For example, in 1998 I hypothesized in a famous piece in the Journal of the ACM that "Personal Computer Workings Degenerate Over Time." In it, I cited more than 25 works from Babbage to my own. I received more than 2,000 (that's two thousand) supportive e-mails following that article, and I don't mind telling you that I got more than $100,000 from public speaking appearances to talk about it.

My intellect knows few bounds. If you would like to talk more about this topic, please reply here.

Re:I've done a lot of research on this topic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652175)

Please moderate this post up. Seth Finklestein is without a doubt the most important computer engineer of our time. Did you know that he's been working with computers since the '80s? For more, check out his award-winning biography [slashdot.org] .

Re:I've done a lot of research on this topic. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652202)

What an amazing post! I think Seth Finklestein is great.

Great, sounds like just what we need (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652161)

Given conflicting instructions, an intelligent, goal-seeking machine may respond in an unpredictable way that obeys neither instruction, but settles instead for a course of action that seems to minimize the apparent conflict.

How much improved would AI be in strategy games if this "neurosis" were to show up there? Those are just the circumstances described in the Darwin article: the computer has limited resources and potentially conflicting goals -- develop and attack, protect resources but aggressively pursue new ones, and so on. We could all use a little unpredictability, right?

I'm all for it.

Seriously, though -- wouldn't games like that be the perfect test bed for more "intelligent," problem-solving approaches? When you got into your car, you could rest easy knowing its resource management routines were honed during many hours of multiplayer FPS. It's the wind tunnel of the future, man.

I'm sorry, Dave... (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652164)

... I can't let you do that...

Between HAL and Marvin ("I'm depressed"), then yeah, I'd say computers can become neurotic.

Re:I'm sorry, Dave... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652229)

Yeah, except neither HAL 9000 or Marvin actually exist. Get therapy.

While it's a nice metaphor. . . (4, Insightful)

Fritz Benwalla (539483) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652166)


Machines will have to get a lot more complex before their problems graduate from inefficiency or resource conflicts to "neurosis."

It is fun to personify, but the fact is that at the current state of IT development any unpredictable output can be pulled apart, debugged, and repaired.

This metaphor may start gaining some weight, however, when we become inexorably dependent on complex systems. Right now there are huge systems that have to be kept running because the cost of shutting them down for repair would be unacceptable. As this trend continues, and these machines become more complex webs of old and new code, I can see us having to figure out how to "coax" behaviors our of them without really knowing the way the base code interacts in order to generate those behaviors.

That's when system administration and psychiatry will really begin to overlap.

----

Just as a precaution... (1)

Tranvisor (250175) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652167)

I have started formating my drives every 90 days. It seems the longer my computer goes without a format the crazyer it gets. Refusing to turn on right, failing to respond to commands, etc. In theory I think it is because my computer is forming a primitive-type of intelligence and deciding to be lazy. I could be wrong.

moron neurosis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652181)

the 'smoking gun' is poiNTing at us?

lookout bullow. yOUR facade is only holding US up. it's NOT reflected buy the wwworld.

the creator is participating. lookout bullow. those who seek to profit from death buy murder, are they themselves dead.

If Software was written better... (1)

jordanpwalsh (572376) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652188)

If software was written better nowadays we wouldnt have this problem. Microsoft's recent 32 bit Line of Operating Systems, 2000,XP. Are pretty good, linux is the same. the problem was back in the days of 95, and 98. it was a 32 bit shell running on a 16 bit operating system. that would make any sane system go crazy. Another reason is pointers in the program. Theres no way that every pointer in windows or it's applicatons is pointing to the right place.

Hmm... (1, Funny)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652214)

Does this mean that they can exhibit unpredictable behavior like HAL, the supercomputer in '2001: A Space Odyssey'?
I don't know about your computer, but mine hasn't tried to murder me yet. :^)

Re:Hmm... (1)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652245)

I don't know about your computer, but mine hasn't tried to murder me yet.

Do strokes and heart attacks count?

Heck Yes! (0)

flsniper (655768) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652215)

Put some Victoria Scret lingerie on it, shave its legs Yeah!! OH, sorry thought U said EROTIC! ::::::::walking off to the corner to bang head against wall:::::::::

I thought that said (2, Funny)

cfortin (23148) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652217)


"Can your computer become necrotic"

And thought "Of course, every day".

Made alot more sense that way too.

Bastards! (1)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652224)

The four PCs in my office at home try to gang up on me over the network.

I unplug the router from time to time just to show them who's boss!

Re:Bastards! (1)

Angry White Guy (521337) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652294)

Wireless networking will remove that power. Don't go 802.llb, and your last resort will be the breaker box. But they're all on UPS's right? Just enough time for one last strike at you.

Mutual Destruction politics at home!

offtopic question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652232)

what does it mean when something is over something in maths

eg for networking

U =

Tmax
_______
Tdata

Thanks, cause i have nfi

Hofstadter Turing Knuth Raymond Ted and Alice (1)

LouisvilleDebugger (414168) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652235)

Reminds me of

a) Hofstadter's or (Turing's?) response to "Lady Lovelace's objection" (computers will never surprise us because we tell them what to do), to wit, that past a certain level of complexity you only know in vague terms what you've told the machine to do. (And in the OSS model, "you" includes a giant network of coders you'll never meet, some of whom may have lived in a different century than you.)

b) Knuth's hoary challenge to list all the things your computer does in one second

I'd hardly maintain that strong AI will necessarily emerge from, say, the Gnome source tree, but I think we can definitely look forward to a lifetime supply of computers doing things that no one expected or intended them to do. I'm happy to "live in interesting times."

I wonder if all the excitement and drama of the computer age is destined to stay, or if the fun idea of computer "neuroses," and other things Slashdot readers lose sleep over, will be a quaint thing of the past someday...something every young coder learns from Knuth (5th edition, Vol. 10)

Neurotic.....no (5, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652237)

When I clicked on the link, I got the following error:

411 Your computer doesn't care

So, is my computer neurotic? No, but it's apathetic attitude is getting to be a pain.

--

Was it the sheep climbing onto the altar, or the cattle lowing to be slain,
or the Son of God hanging dead and bloodied on a cross that told me this was a world condemned, but loved and bought with blood.

coming soon to TechTV.... (1)

autojive (560399) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652238)


The Computer Psychic!

Achilles' Heel (1)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652239)

As in any cartoon or Naked Gun movie, any evil machine or device can be defeated simpling by unplugging it. So long as there are power cords, the machines will always be defeated by a clumsy Leslie Neilson.

What Would Bender Do? (1)

kvn299 (472563) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652246)

Fry: 'Who cares what you're programmed for? If someone programmed you to jump off a cliff would you do it?'

Bender: 'I'll have to check my program...............yep!'

Why must we always do this. (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652258)

We do it everywhere, and a whole freaking lot when we're younger too. (Thomas the Train anyone?)

We like to ascribe organic behavioral characteristics to silicon-based machines? No way. I can fix just about any problem on a PC, but usually it's just faster to laydown the OS or application that is no longer working.

The causes of these 'mysterious' problem are either faulty memory, or corrupt files on the disk. Even corrupt datafiles can cause programs to go awry, not just corrupt libraries and exes.

I've seen a common problem on windows - that it "forgets" about the network. THe files are there, everything should be working, but it just doesn't. This problem can be fixed by extracting the DLLS, and VXDs out of the cabs that are associated with networking.

While I said it "forgot" networking, it didn't really. A DLL failed to load because it got corrupt on disk which prevented the stack from loading completely. Once refreshed with the uncorrupt one, it works fine. I suspect all the quirks of PCs can be traced back to corruption on the file system or a bad flip-flop in RAM.

If PCs developed personalityies, then Computer Science would cease to exist, and wou'd all have to get degrees in neuroscience!

HAL's "Unpredictable Behavior" (4, Informative)

SecretAsianMan (45389) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652271)

The poster wrote:
Does this mean that they can exhibit unpredictable behavior like HAL, the supercomputer in '2001: A Space Odyssey'?
HAL's behavior in the movie 2001 was not unpredictable or random. It was a result of the conflicting orders HAL was given. HAL's basic programming instructed him to be as open and accurate as possible when reporting information. Some PHBs then gave him the order to not disclose some aspects of the mission to the humans on board the Discovery. HAL accomplished both objectives by removing the humans. Apparently, there was no directive in his base programming that told him killing people was bad.

So it is all completely logical, which is not a small feat for a Hollywood production...

Hold up on HAL for a sec (0)

LohRhyda (243119) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652280)

Hey, hold up on HAL for a sec.
HAL was not Trippin, confused, or broke.
HE had information that others did not, and
acted in the best interest of mankind.
Err somthin like that.
This could just be from a dilusional persons Point of view

Something like (2, Interesting)

amcguinn (549297) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652291)

I'm not sure that "neurotic" is the best metaphor, but as the level of abstraction that computers deal with gets higher, they can start to commit more kinds of meaningful error.

To explain: If you are programming in assembly language, any programming error is likely to cause a simple failure of the system. Something goes wrong at a low level, so the higher-level thing that the system is meant to do just doesn't happen. On the other hand, if you are programming with tools (language and libraries) that deal in high level abstractions, a programming error can result in the system succesfully manipulating those abstractions in the wrong way. If the "rm" program works correctly, your script might delete the wrong files. The bugs that such a high-level system might have are more likely to look like "bad behaviour" or even insanity than the simple malfunctions of older systems. We are already seeing this. Pressing the wrong button can cause a personal email to be sent to a group of people, for example -- behaviour that looks almost malicious.

I used to think that the SF fears of machines "turning on their creators" such as "2001" or "Terminator" were just silly. "A computer can only do what it's programmed to do", I would say. I have long since seen the flaw in this. A computer that is programmed to use weapons, for instance, can use them on the wrong people due to a programming error (or a user error) at a higher level. (Worth knowing if you're an RAF pilot overflying a Patriot battery). A computer that was programmed (correctly) to create strategies (I this is still SF, or at any rate early research) might create strategies with the wrong objectives due to higher-level programming errors. That is the level of "bug" appearing in the plots of "2001" and "Terminator".

Computers *have* to be neurotic (1)

pixelated77 (472348) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652308)

How else could you explain the piece of code that works fine for a year, then you hear that there's a minor problem with it, and when you go and look at it to debug it, it shouldn't have worked in the first place???

Neurotic Robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5652321)

There is an interesting story near the end of Sheldrake's Dogs Who Know When Their Owners are Coming Home about imprinting chicks affecting the behavior of bump-and-turn robots. Strange stuff - Worth a look.

Is that you John ? (1)

Murphy(c) (41125) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652323)

That's funny, but just reading the summary on slashdot made me think that it was a John Katz Feature.

Almost made me regret his articles.

Murphy(c) ...Almost, then I woke up.

also worth reading (1)

cellocgw (617879) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652350)

A great book by George Dyson: Darwin Among The Machines, [amazon.com] He draws many similarities between organic and computational evolution

Sunspots (1)

thatguywhoiam (524290) | more than 11 years ago | (#5652372)

While the article is pretty long on rhetoric, and I don't really buy into the theory, I have witnessed days where all the computers in the office seem to go quite mad.

You guys know what I'm talking about.

That moment, after you've just helped user #845 with the 15th bizarro problem, and it's only 9:45am... and you take a look around the room and nothing seems to be working smoothly...

I usually just mutter something about sun spots. Then I go have a liquid lunch.

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