back to article Could an AI android live forever? What, like your other IT devices?

There is a graveyard in my office. Theorists have often sought to explain what happens to lost socks and mused on the possible inter-dimensional escape routes taken by ballpoint pens. Some researchers have even conducted an epidemiological study into lost teaspoons. I, however, know exactly where crackly earphones and error- …

  1. Ragarath

    Wonderful, have one of these...


    That was an enjoyable read for first thing Friday morning.

    My only thought was that all you need is two (probably more as they are bound to break at the same time) android/roboty things and they will just repair each other. kill all of us biological self repairing mechanisms and take over the universe.

    1. hplasm

      Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

      Spare Head 2 agrees with you, Mr Lister!

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

        beat me to it .. i was about to post:

        will live forever. Well-known examples such as Steven Spielberg's movie A.I. and Osamu Tezuka's manga Mighty Atom centre on this essentially daft conceit,

        Kryten living with, and looking after , his dead crewmates for centuries is probly the most well known example

        1. Uncle Slacky
          Thumb Up

          Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

          There's also Bender, who "took the long way around" multiple times when stealing things for scammers, Data's head spending several hundred years buried in SF, and of course Marvin who is something like 9 times the age of the Universe, and still never had those diodes in his left side replaced...

          1. VikiAi

            Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

            Though, at least Bender solved the issue of re-attaching his arms when both had fallen off!

        2. Nick Kew

          Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

          Humans were there first. For example, the Flying Dutchman lived on with his dead crew long enough to become legend. That was Satan's curse, of course.

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

            Exactly. Immortality is just a perennial storytelling conceit. It used to come from divine power (like Nicholas Flamel, Tithonus, the Wandering Jew). In the age of exploration it came from finding secret places, like the Fountain of Youth or Shangri-la. Early science fiction roots it in Science (Frankenstein). And it's not surprising that modern SF says it comes with IT.

            None of the above have any particularly well thought out mechanism for endowing it, but that was never the point. It's just a story device.

            What is a bit surprising is that apparently intelligent people seem to believe in it, to the extent of paying to be frozen. Lunatic.

            1. Muscleguy

              Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

              The frozen thing is an excellent example. During my PhD there were experiments in the department into this and I've frozen tissue (very small bits of tissue) for sectioning and if you get it wrong you can tell.

              The people peddling this will tell you all about their 'advanced techniques' but the problem is adult human bodies are just too damn big to freeze fast enough. So are heads.

              Also in a world grappling with the effects of climate change and sustainability who will want to resurrect a bunch of narcissistic old people from long ago? Even if they fail to realise those people are dead beyond any resurrection.

              For the cognoscenti the way to freeze tissue is to lower a container filled with isopentane into liquid nitrogen. I usually used a 35mm film canister and some coathanger wire. You then freeze your tissue in isopentane slurry. Because if you use LN2 the warm tissue creates a skin of Nitrogen gas around it which insulates it from the liquid so the tissue is frozen around the outside but the inside is not flash frozen. The isopentane not being volatile freezes the tissue right through very quickly, preserving the structure.

              BTW perfusing someone with isopentane is not compatible with life or resurrection.

      2. oiseau
        Thumb Up

        Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

        The self-repairing and self-replicating nature of the organic world is very much under-rated ...

        Indeed ...

        Excellent observation, AD.

        Have a great week-end.


        1. Unicornpiss

          Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

          'The self-repairing and self-replicating nature of the organic world is very much under-rated"

          Or overrated, when you consider the number of people who have nothing better to do than have child after child that won't be looked after, disciplined, cared about, or educated properly, despite readily available birth control. And get off my lawn!

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

      "all you need is two"

      To do useful work on each other, yes. But what about spare parts? Just like a human body constantly replaces it's original cells, they would need a constant supply of spare parts. Judging by current state of tech, each android would need anything from 3 to 10 extra bits for every 10 years of operation, not to mention consumables like oil etc.

      And most probably would fail in the end not because they've run out of incredibly complex state-of-the-art limbs, unbelievably advanced processors or portable fusion batteries, but because someone forgot to re-order a couple of 10p washers

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

        Some years ago the gearbox on my nearly new car failed. It was made by a company whose badge looks like a thin 3-bladed prop in a circle. The gearbox computer diagnosed a fault. The company in Stuttgart didn't believe it and eventually sent out a replacement GCU. Which diagnosed the same fault...

        The head technician told me when the car was fixed that the gearbox had been replaced, and the problem had been traced to a faulty washer. The manufacturer was billed around £4000 by the garage to get the problem fixed under warranty. Add on the cost of the replacement gearbox and that was a very expensive washer.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

          "..that was a very expensive washer"

          Indeed! I was basing my observation on a saying by Enzo Ferrari about his million-dollar engine breaking down because of a 1 dollar washer (surely partly an aphorism as he would have been talking in millions of Italian lire, but you get the idea)

          This from the guy who also said "the perfect racing car breaks down just after the finish line"

      2. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

        Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

        It would be interesting to know how many brethren did Wall-e cannibalize in order to live 800 years. That's probably the most realistic depiction of an immortal bot in fiction... but then, how much Wall-e was still Wall-e after all those y...


        No, NO! please let the Ship of Theseus sail and don't board it!

        1. VikiAi

          Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

          If you want to do a search, I recall a Cracked article some years back referencing someone who did the maths on that one!

          1. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

            Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

            Cracked? that name brings memories... used to love that site back in the day, haven't visited it in years.

            I'll have to look for the article when I'm home. Thanks for the tip!

    3. Red Ted

      Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

      Entirely splendid article Mr Dabbs.

      I know this problem as the Critical Need Detector that exists in all machines and can detect when you really need some thing to work and will then break at the critical and most frustrating moment (such as needing a printer to print the notes for a presentation you have to give in five minutes, or the thumb drive that has the presentation on it, etc etc.)

    4. dc42

      Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

      Quite so. Those of us who are into 3D printing know that you need at least 2 printers so that each can print replacement parts for the other.

      1. RunawayLoop

        Re: Wonderful, have one of these...

        >>know that you need at least 2 printers so that each can print replacement parts for the other.

        Unless you have a bit of foresight and print all the spare parts for your only printer while it is still in operable order. A second printer only becomes a necessity if you fail to plan.

  2. Denarius

    best assessment of likelyhood of AI apocalypse


    well put. Not a hope of any robot thing hanging around working long enough to rust, let alone become a decade long threat. Now if only this were true of data mining. It may be wrong, but believed all the same. An electronic version of the old aphorism that lies fly and truth limps ?

    1. BrownishMonstr

      Re: best assessment of likelyhood of AI apocalypse

      Don't be fooled, people! Dabbsy is trying to distract you all from the truth. He is obviously a robot—I mean, look at his display picture!






  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal travelling in all directions at 300,000km/sec"

    Wow, you don't go halfway when it comes to secure disposal, do you Dabbsy ?

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal"

      it grinds my gears that no matter how enthusiastic you are with a hammer - you still end up paying some twat with a WEE(?) certificate , because he's "qualified".

      When else do you actually pay someone to smash up your property?

      Apart from building demolition i cant think of any ...

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal"

        it grinds my gears that no matter how enthusiastic you are with a hammer - you still end up paying some twat with a WEE(?) certificate , because he's "qualified".

        At work a couple of years ago there was a pile of defective 42" display screens. Their contracted disposal company refused to take them because there was no storage inside[0][1], so they kept sitting in a corner of a storage room until that room had to be emptied because of a move. Suggesting that I could deal with the correct disposal was greeted with enthousiasm, and after disposing of a bunch of failed capacitors, replacing them with fresh ones, the need for further disposal was entirely nulled.

        [0] the contract stated that they were to appropriately dispose of data processing gear containing storage.

        [1] without even opening them up I could have told them there would be at least one EEPROM inside.

    2. Nick Kew

      Always dispose of sensitive material securely.

      The fires of Mount Doom.

      1. Evil Scot

        Or possibly

        Steam roller.

        1. Red Ted

          Re: Or possibly

          +1 for the Terry Pratchett reference.

          I do recall that they did put the HDDs from his computers though a stone crusher too, after they had been run over by the steam roller!

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: Or possibly

          I recently took an JCB's (Actually a CaseIH) scoop to a load of drives, just for good measure we then placed them under the tracks & drove over them several times.

          1. Stoneshop

            Re: Or possibly

            I had occasion to expose a hard drive (Seagate 600MB, one of those models with a cast metal lid as well as the body, painted black) to one of the hydraulic levelling feet of a scissor lift once. It was surprisingly hard to get it to show any damage; only after putting it on edge vertically did it manage to buckle the lid a bit. BOTE calc says there was about 3 tons pressing down on the drive.

      2. jelabarre59

        Always dispose of sensitive material securely.

        The fires of Mount Doom.

        Actually, I've found laptop hard drives will disintegrate in a sufficiently hot woodstove.

      3. W4YBO

        "The fires of Mount Doom."

        I have a weird looking doorstop consisting several old hard drives, a rack handle, and a few pounds of copper thermite left over after a big antenna project. Shaped generally like a flower pot.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal"

      Oddly enough, all the HDs I've percussively-maintained recently seem to have glass platters - and they tend to crumble rather than splinter.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal"

        That's what data rot does.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal"

        I use a cold chisel and a lump hammer. The cases can be surprisingly tough to get through. In a few weeks I will have a band saw capable of cutting them in half.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal"

          I typically remove the screws to reveal the platters, then simply wedge my screwdriver under the platters and give a sharp yank upward. The platters don't survive many of those, though I recommend enclosing the drive in a bag before doing so to prevent the need for aggressive vacuuming.

        2. Stoneshop

          Re: "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal"

          Angle grinder. And if you cut through the lid at right angles to the platter and near the platter axis, the moment the grinder disc hits the platter it will start spinning well in excess of its designed rotational parameters.

      3. stiine Silver badge

        Re: "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal"

        Where I used to work they dismantled the disk packs and used a belt sander to turn all of the magnetic medium to dust.

    4. DropBear

      Re: "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal..."

      Sounds unsafe. Proper procedure expects hard drives and such safely chucked into the nearest black hole - wherever you are, there should be one available no further than your nearest traditional e-waste recycling centre is...

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: "airborne splinters of razor-sharp shards of metal..."

        Sounds unsafe.

        Completely safe, as 300,000 km/s is slightly faster than the speed of light (299,792.5 km/s) the parts will have unreal mass and zip off at 90º to reality.

        Anything existing in the higher dimensions might get a bit pissed off though.

  4. Potemkine! Silver badge

    to open each of their cases and obliterate the innards with a hammer.

    If you want to gain some time, there is no need to open the case when you use a sledgehammer.

    We regularly dispose our old drives using one, we've got plenty of volunteers to do so, it's very good for the mental health.

    Something else I've got plenty of in a drawer: old USB cables with either a proprietary connector on one side or defective micro-USB connectors. If the copper price continues to rise I could become rich in the future.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "defective micro-USB connectors"

      Is there any other kind? Apart, of course, from the wrong one.

      1. quxinot

        >Is there any other kind? Apart, of course, from the wrong one.<

        Don't be silly. There's many that work very well indeed!

        Just look for the cord that isn't quite long enough. They're the ones on the ends of it.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Or that one that is about five meters long because USB works great at those lengths. No, I don't know where it came from. It kind of works, so I keep not throwing it away in case I finally find a use case for it, the same way I keep various other completely working things that don't require anything strange to operate but I don't have any conceivable use for.

    2. GrumpenKraut

      > need to open the case when you use a sledgehammer.

      But, but, the magnets?

      The one with 3 kilograms of magnets in each pocket -------->

      1. Stoneshop

        The one with 3 kilograms of magnets in each pocket -------->

        And several manhole covers clinging to the outside.

    3. jelabarre59

      If you want to gain some time, there is no need to open the case when you use a sledgehammer.

      Oh, I always use a sledgehammer. Not only does it exert more destructive energy to the object, it also releases more pent-up anger with the extra heft.

      I suppose the only way to get equivalent release with earbuds and USB cables would be placing them on a log and going at them with an axe.

    4. Timo

      No copper

      I believe you'll find that there is nearly no copper in any of those said cables. Which could be the cause of the failures. Earphone cables made of a single string of copper atoms.

  5. Semtex451

    Hope the move is as stress light as it can be Dabbsy

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      >> Hope the move is as stress light as it can be Dabbsy

      Thanks. I think we've found those teaspoons. It's funny seeing them collected in one place for the first time. There are about 40.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        My experience with house moves has been that stuff has disappeared when you get to unpack in the new house but stuff from the house before or even before that reappears for the first time in years. My theory is that they were in the last house in a parallel universe but have now crossed back.

        Packing cases are portals between the said parallel universes.

        1. Alien8n

          This is my experience too.

          House 1, lived in for 6 years, lost item X in year 1.

          Move to House 2, find item X on day one of unpacking (surely if it's packed it should have been found when packing up House 1?) and immediately lose item Y which then still remains lost 18 years later.

          The only thing that makes the above worse is knowing exactly where item Y was placed, yet it seemingly has been absorbed into the very foundations of the building.

          1. NetBlackOps

            Why, yes, the universe is equipped with a critical need detector.

          2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

            The one thing I never got my head round is how I managed to lose a sledge hammer in a house move. They are not exactly small and insignificant things.

  6. TrumpSlurp the Troll

    Android vs Robot?

    Back in the day an android was an artificially created being (that is, manufactured as opposed to by sexual reproduction) which was often difficult or impossible to distinguish from a naturally produced organic being.

    As, for example, in Blade Runner.

    Anything electronic was a robot. For example Terminator.

    A lot of SF revolved around human rights and the possession of a soul of "manufactured humans".

    The meaning seems to have drifted over the years.

    Apart from that, nice article. :-)

    1. joeldillon

      Re: Android vs Robot?

      Terminators specifically were difficult or impossible to distinguish from humans though? That's literally their point, so that Skynet can infiltrate the human resistance.

      That said, android just means 'man-like'; it can also be used to distinguish robots with two arms, two legs and a head (but still metallic) from other robots, i.e. C3PO is an android, R2-D2 is not.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Android vs Robot?

        "Terminators specifically were difficult or impossible to distinguish from humans though? "

        I think the point that OP is trying to make is that they are fundamentally different on the inside. Although it's never actually gone into in a lot of detail, the impression left by Blade Runner films is that the androids have a human or quasi-human anatomy and physiology (apart from the brain?), it's just that all the parts are created in a lab and assembled in a factory.

        T-101, while specifically designed to superficially look like a human, is almost fully robotic (basically just the skin is 'human')

      2. Darryl

        Re: Android vs Robot?

        So, wait. You're saying that R2-D2 really WASN'T the droid we were looking for?

      3. Andy 68

        Re: Android vs Robot?

        "These are not the droid and robot you're looking for"

        Doesn't quite have the same ring to it

        [Edit: dang - pipped!]

      4. Charles 9

        Re: Android vs Robot?

        Which is why the proper term for a machine made to resemble a woman isn't ANDRoid but GYNoid.

        1. graeme leggett Silver badge

          Re: Android vs Robot?

          If you're not sure if it's meant to be male or female - "androgenoid"?

        2. stiine Silver badge

          Re: Android vs Robot?

          Somewhere I have most of Hajime Sorayama's books.

          I'm not saying what's under the coat.

      5. John Jennings

        Re: Android vs Robot?

        A Robot is a term (Hungarian or Czech or there abouts) derived from the work a Serf had to do for his lord.

        Usually 1-2 days per week labour in exchange for a plot of land. The serf could leave, however - one step below a peasant

        First used in the 1920s in a play as a machine to carry out repetitive tasks.

        Android comes from the greek as Andros (man) and Eide (appearance)

        Its not a true merger of the term.

    2. Carpet Deal 'em

      Re: Android vs Robot?

      The original use of the word "robot" was for the organic kind(see R.U.R.). Meanwhile, "android" was originally applied to human-shaped automata that were actually produced(toys and novelties, basically), with the sci-fi sense coming much later(though that idea predates the term).

  7. macjules
    Paris Hilton

    Regenerating tissue etc

    By the time something like "Humans" becomes a vague reality we would see androids with self-healing hydrogel tissue - which could be used for ligaments, cartilage, and tendons, as well as "skin" tissue. Then again, there is nothing to say that a future Deus Ex cop could not also have a mini SnapOn toolkit concealed beside the minigun .. just in case of those embarrassing emergencies you know.

    Mine's the android busy with a pin picking hardened earwax out of the iPhone earbuds while jumping up and down on a stack of 40Mb Quantum 3.5" drives.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Regenerating tissue etc

      In all reality, anything looking to make a self healing "machine" will take one look at nature and go "my job has already been done by nature you idiots, go get a dog/horse/person" to do this job, I'm off to the pub!

    2. Ozumo

      Re: Regenerating tissue etc

      If its tool kit was by Snap-on, immortality would be blighted by the continuing credit payments.

  8. Tromos

    "...before I get bored of watching Homes Under The Hammer."

    Your bones knit in under five seconds???!!!

    1. Loyal Commenter

      Re: "...before I get bored of watching Homes Under The Hammer."


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dabbs ,

    Have you seen Amazon's recent adaption of "Good Omens" featuring a guy who breaks computers instantly by trying to use them?

    I think you have the same affliction

    stay the hell away from me!

    1. Alistair Dabbs
    2. Baudwalk

      >>>stay the hell away from me!<<<


      Are you an android?

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      No, that's me. I somehow manage to use just the right set of unit tests to make at least five other non-related bugs crawl out from under the woodwork, that must also be fixed, but with no extra project time.

  10. BenDwire Silver badge

    "Includes free Compact Disc album!"

    Are you sure it was bundled with "Brothers In Arms"? My first Philips CD202 came with a sampler disk that has Telegraph Road on it (which was the first digital track I ever heard at a Marantz launch event at Heathrow back in the day) along with ABC's "The Look Of Love", Elton's "All Quiet On The Western Front" and many others that I simly cannot bear to listen to due to complete overexposure in those early days. And don't get me started on the £15 per month "Record Club" that automatically supplied the "Disk of the month" whether you wanted it or not, or the stand up argument in WH Smiths when they refused to swap a gifted Vinyl album for a CD, as they said digital music was only a fad and would never last. (No, she didn't have a hipster beard).

    If that wasn't bad enough, I've just had to clear out my office of 20 years and have over 30 disks that need running past DBAN (Darik's Boot and Nuke) before hitting the recycling centre - although now I've typed that I wonder if a better use of time might be to get Duke Nukem working under Debian ...

    Good luck with the move Dabbsy!

    1. Shadow Systems

      At BenDwire, re: the CD of the month club.

      In my case it was both BMG & Columbia House that had such services.

      I'd sign up to one, purchase the required discs to fulfil the contract, then cancel the account.

      Except they'd refuse to stop sending me discs & kept trying to charge me for them.

      At first I'd simply write "did not order - return to sender" on the box & drop it back in the post. When that didn't stop the flood I'd keep them without unboxing them & contact the shipper to let them know that I hadn't ordered them & wouldn't be paying for them.

      "But the contract stipulates-" Would that be the same contract that I've already fulfilled & terminated? Because I didn't order them & I'm not paying for them.

      They seemed not to care, kept sending me the discs (& bills), & I talked to the Post Master General. The PMG let me know that "anything you didn't order that gets sent to you only requires that you make a good faith attempt to return to the shipper. If the shipper then sends anything else that you don't order, that's legally a free gift. You aren't required to return them, you don't have to pay for them, & if the shipper wants them back THEY have to pay the return post charges. In a nutshell: didn't order? they refuse to stop? Enjoy your free gifts!"

      I printed out the section of the postal code that specified that free gift clause, laminated it to the next box they sent, & wrote "Anything you send after this point I'm keeping as a free gift."

      And you know what?

      They kept shipping me free discs *FOR YEARS*.

      I wound up with so many *free* CD's that my collection spanned multiple 400 CD Wallet binders worth.

      Check your local postal code. If there's a free gift clause, you may be in for a free collection of your own!

      1. BenDwire Silver badge

        Re: At BenDwire, re: the CD of the month club.

        Well played sir! I'm guessing that you're Stateside?

        Bearing in mind this all happened in the pre-internet 1980's, UK law was distinctly less consumer friendly that it often is now. Book clubs, music clubs and all manner of mail-order companies were a total nightmare to deal with. Thankfully most have sorted their act out, but we still struggle with TV and phone companies who have collectively run out of damns to give us plebs.

        1. Shadow Systems

          Re: At BenDwire, re: the CD of the month club.

          Yes I'm on the wrong side of The Pond. =-)

          Still, it can't hurt to check with your local PMG & ask what can be done about unsolicited shipments.

          If You have already fulfilled the contract & told them to terminate the account, there may be laws that allow you to keep the shipments without being required to pay for them.

          Say you get a box from Amazon even though you didn't order anything & Amazon demands you pay for it anyway. If you didn't order it then you shouldn't have to pay for it. If simply writing "return to sender - did not order" on it & shoving it back out the door isn't going to do it, then the post may have laws that say you get to keep it & give Amazon TheFinger.

          If the record company (or anyone else for that matter) tries to send you stuff you didn't order & don't want, then what's the harm in trying to determine if you get to keep their stuff for free? =-)P

          It's a good thing I don't live in the UK, I'd get in trouble for "returning unordered packages" via catapult...

          "Hey you lousy fucks! Package Refused!" KA-CHUNK! "Woot! Right through the penthouse window!"


        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: At BenDwire, re: the CD of the month club.

          "Book clubs, music clubs and all manner of mail-order companies were a total nightmare to deal with."

          My solution with someone who, despite several "not at this address" returns was to ring them and tell them that my handling charge for future returns would be £10 a time, I would invoice and would go to the small claims court. They stopped.

        3. Stork Silver badge

          Re: At BenDwire, re: the CD of the month club.

          Afair the law in Denmark was quite similar. Not that I played the game

    2. Persona Silver badge

      Re: "Includes free Compact Disc album!"

      In the days when CD's were new a guy where I worked set up a "CD lending library" where fellow workers could register their CD's and borrow each others. It was very popular. Everyone had "Brothers in Arms" but there were enough other albums to make it very popular.

      After it had been going a week or two someone asked him why he hadn't listed his CD's in the library. It turned out he didn't have any. Apparently he was waiting to have access to lots of CD's before investing in a CD player.

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: "Includes free Compact Disc album!"

        In the days when CD's were new a guy where I worked set up a "CD lending library" where fellow workers could register their CD's and borrow each others.

        I was volunteering at a record[0] library when the CD was launched, and we decided to spend a bit of spare cash on a few of those discs. IIRC we started with 80; after the first week there were about ten left on the shelf and we rather rapidly ordered another hundred or so.

        [0] the black vinyl sort.

  11. Annihilator


    "boring myself shitless playing the bundled free copy of bloody Dire Straits' Brothers in Bloody Arms "

    How dare you. Although admittedly, probably my favourite thing about that album is when it comes up in a pub quiz as the answer to "what was the first compact disc to sell 1m copies?"

    Other than that, very enjoyable article.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Blasphemy

      In my case it wasn't included with the player but it was the first CD I bought. Fond memories indeed.

      1. Alien8n

        Brothers In Arms

        In the 80s it was the CD you left on the coffee table, alongside a copy of National Geographic or some other magazine designed to show you were "upper middle class".

        First CD ever bought: A Little Ain't Enough by David Lee Roth

  12. Lee D Silver badge

    The point at which we have to worry is not "when we start building robots".

    It's when robots, from nothing more than raw material, start building themselves.

    At that point, they are pretty much immortal (that doesn't mean invincible, however).

    Mining operations can be largely automated, transport of raw material to a factory, refinement, fabrication and assembly. But at the moment it's all "instructed", driven by us. When we start to pop out of that loop, then we're in trouble.

    But, hell, AI is 50-100 years away. Sure, we can do fancy things blurring pixels together and tell you if there's a banana in an image but - coincidentally - so can purely mathematical statistical models with no "learning" whatsoever. It's almost like that's exactly what they're selling you instead of "intelligence"... odd that...

    We're approaching a "sufficiently advanced technology" area where it looks like AI/magic but it's not. Turing test contestants are still naff (you can often find them online if you want to have a play), and that's still in the same area, i.e. not actually intelligence.

    Given the acres of supercomputers in the world belonging to some of the richest corporations in the world, with almost limitless talent, capability and resources... Siri, Alexa and Google still do a sucky-job.

    1. Loyal Commenter

      These days, when someone says 'AI', they usually mean one of two things (or a combination): A statistical model based on some sort of "neural net" (or model thereof) that is just a fancy way of modelling something using maths, but not getting it quite right or understanding how it works, or a big ol' database with some fancy indexing on it. Often with some dodgy speech recognition bolted on, that only deals with simple, well formed sentences (and doesn't work if you're Scottish) and comes nowhere near actual natural language processing with all its idioms and ambiguity ("I saw a man on a hill with a telescope" - could get messy, I should probably use an actual saw and do it indoors.)

      1. Alien8n

        Play Horizon Zero Dawn. The robots are designed to use any surrounding biological matter (read plant and animal matter) as fuel. Unfortunately a glitch in the software creates robots that no longer respond to a stop command and have realised that humans are also biological matter...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Alien8n - That's not a glitch

          it's a logical deduction. Robots were trained to be intelligent and creative.

          Robots able to detect and use bio matter as fuel is intelligence. Robots avoiding using humans as fuel is ethics. So far AI gurus and apprentices are unable and/or unwilling to consider implementing ethics.

        2. the Jim bloke

          Not just biologicals

          Wasnt there an experiment with evolving virtual AIs, which started with 2 original 'entities'.. they introduced the concepts of eating and fulfilment, then when they tried adding a third entity, the 2 originals tried to eat it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "doesn't work if you're Scottish"

        They could try training it on BBC Scotland's 'Breaking The News' podcast... an audio podcast that needs subtitles for anyone not brought up in one particular tenement in Glasgow... Billy Connolly speaks like Jacob Rees-Mogg by comparison!

  13. Dr_N

    Slagging off Astro Boy?!?

    Burn, heretic.

  14. big_D Silver badge

    I know what you mean...

    Oh, wait a second, I just need to not replace my headphones. My current Sony in-ears are from 2015 and still going (if a little scratched and battered) strong. I've replaced the little rubber nubbins a couple of times, but the headphones are still going strong.

    My router was replaced in January, after 7 years service, because it was no longer getting security updates from the manufacturer.

    But I had a boss like you, put something electronic in his hands and it crumbled to technical dust in seconds. Put him in front of a computer and it would die within minutes.

  15. Nick Kew

    Things that breed ... things that heal

    Against the transience of ephemera, we should set their propensity to breed. Your first paragraph put me in mind of a comedian I once heard[1] on the subject of how the wire coat hangers in his wardrobe multiply.

    Meanwhile, we have non-human beings older than any of us, and their elite have the ability to repair symbiotically when damaged: think Notre Dame. In terms of your electronics, think of it as transferring your data to a new disc. What we can't know yet of course is what electronic life forms may survive the test of time and outlive human timespans, maybe in the Clacks.

    [1] I think it was Dave Allen, but I can't be sure.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Things that breed ... things that heal

      There are always those things that you expect to break but yet somehow hold on for a very long time. I was given a thermometer at one point, the kind that measures the temperature outside with a probe. It was clearly made as cheaply as possible, with lots of parts that really felt like they would fall off if you pushed hard enough. I put this on my window from which I was constantly knocking it, but it withstood very frequent falls to the floor without ever losing a piece. It also managed to last about twelve years on a set of batteries. It's still going strong, despite my firm belief when I got it in 2003 or so that it wouldn't last until 2004.

  16. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

    "maybe the bleeding stops after a minute or two"

    You obviously are not 'enjoying' having to take factor-K inhibiting drugs after having a stent fitted.

    Lets just say that it's not a case of bleeding stopping after a minute or two - unless you add the words "twenty" somewhere in there. It's almost like I've gone back to the Middle Ages and got very aquainted with leeches.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: "maybe the bleeding stops after a minute or two"

      My wife, age 36, MTHFR mutations (we think), PEs (pulmonary embolisms) in 2007 [1] and again last year. Hello warfarin for *life*.

      Both in her initial treatment in 2007 and now, I handle anything sharp, involving a ladder, or snow shoveling, because we can't afford to have her cut or bruised (internal bleeding).

      [1] We thought it was the synthetic-estrogen birth control she was taking at the time. Said product was already off the market in Europe and is now gone from the US. She took the warfarin for only 6 months then. Good news, though: thanks to Lovenox injections, she had three textbook pregnancies in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Why the PEs returned is anyone's guess, but we're glad she survived!

      BTW sorry you needed a stent. My dad did in the mid '90s and ended up having bypass anyway in 2006. About to turn 77, slowing down but still giving his best effort at living. At least your regimen shouldn't be permanent like my missus.

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: "maybe the bleeding stops after a minute or two"

        There are modern alternatives to warfarin, that might be worth discussing with her quack (apixaban is the one I can name without having to google it). I'm no expert, but from some reading of the subject it has advantages compared to warfarin.

        1. Charles 9

          Re: "maybe the bleeding stops after a minute or two"

          Also has disadvantages IIRC. Including worse side effects. Not a good thing when one has Sick Sinus Syndrome and requires both thinners and a pacemaker.

      2. keith_w

        Re: "maybe the bleeding stops after a minute or two"

        My doctor has me on Zarelto. I stab myself in the finger every morning and the bleeding stops almost immediately,

    2. Nick Kew

      Re: "maybe the bleeding stops after a minute or two"

      Twentysomething minutes? If you're talking anticoagulents, you're severely underselling them!

  17. Chris King

    Short life-spans

    Friends and relatives never ask me to look after their pets or tend to their gardens when they're away. In that situation, I am Death Incarnate. You've got Japanese Knotweed on the lawn ? Just tell me it's a valuable plant and to look after it, it's doomed.

    Many years ago, I was asked to look after two very hardy fairground goldfish that were several years old. One morning, I found the tank full of cloudy water and both ot them were floating on the surface, on their sides. I had visions of flopping the carcasses on to a pet shop counter and asking "Have you got two more like that, but not dead ?"

    Thankfully another relative nursed them back to health and saved me from family excommunication.

    You want me to look after your android while you're on holiday ? I'll almost certainly kill it faster than a Tamagotchi on a crash diet.

  18. Franco

    I seem to destroy mice at a very fast pace. My current mouse has an affliction where it has been replaced and the new one is in the post, so it knows this and either doesn't click at all or triple clicks when tapped once. Consequently I have a drawer full of spares, as the old cabled mice never seem to die but fancy wireless ones do constantly.

    Don't have much issue with headphones, except my current pair of running/gym bluetooth headphones annouce "low battery" when it thinks the battery is low and does this every 30 seconds until the battery is actually dead, a rate which is greatly increased by the number of times it annouces "low battery". I think it's an advanced strain of Lemmings disease.

    Finally hard drives. I tend to keep the platters and use them as coasters for my own ones, although playing whac-a-mole with them is always very therapeutic.

    1. GrumpenKraut
      Thumb Up

      Reading the first paragraph of your comment without realizing you are talking about computer mice created a few very bizarre seconds in my life...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Snap. I think it was the context of the previous comment that did it. It also reminded me that SWMBO was supposed to feed the grand-children's rabbits this morning. Quick check to see if she'd remembered; thank goodness she had.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I seem to destroy mice at a very fast pace

      Well stop having sex with them, dude!

    3. D@v3

      +1 for HDD coasters

  19. Daedalus

    Required reading

    Articles like this should be required reading for all the gung-ho clients of tech companies who want the latest shiny thing for their business, and the providers of systems for cars that select your music, set your comfortable temperature, adjust your seat, have sex with your cat, and steer you into a concrete wall.

    Even without the intervention of the average bozo, these new shiny things have a lifetime of years you can count on the fingers of one hand, before they break down, are flagged as insecure (in every sense, Marvin), get declared end-of-life, lose all the people who actually know how they work, or simply go out of fashion. Very fine for the disposable society, of course, but for medical devices? Heating systems? Your retirement accounts? Proof that you were born, paid your taxes, aren't still on holiday in Marbella?

    Well, we can always go stick our collective head in a pig.

    1. Chris King

      Re: Required reading

      "get declared end-of-life"

      Planned obsolescence, or as the sales weasels might say "periodically-refreshed customer experience"...

      "Sorry, your Apple iRobot is on the list of iShiny devices no longer considered Shiny [1]. Would you like to trade it in for the iRobot 4S for $100 off and we'll dispose of the old one for you ? It's very shiny, and doesn't fall over... as much as the iRobot 3 did"

      [1] If it happens, they'll be on HT201624 in 5-7 years, just like all their other products.

  20. MrBanana Silver badge

    In car audio

    You thought you had it bad when the radio died just after starting an 18 hour journey and having to listen to silence. Consider the opposite - getting a cassette tape stuck in the deck during a jaunt around Europe. Only thing to listen to was Bat out Hell. Even after 6 weeks of it my wife still loves it. The others in the camper van, not so much.

    1. ibmalone

      Re: In car audio

      I guess they didn't think it was paradise by the dashboard light then?

  21. MisterHappy

    The Bicentennial man

    The Robin Williams movie Bicentennial Man did a pretty good job of showing that without continuous maintenance androids would wear out and break down. There are lots of things not to like in that film but I've always kinda liked it.

    There was also a book that touched on man's fear of an AI take over, I can't remember the title but there was a conversation between a man and an android along the lines of "You are scared we will take over? Look at me, I am built down to a price using the cheapest parts."

    1. Alister

      Re: The Bicentennial man

      The Robin Williams movie Bicentennial Man

      Based on the (far better) story by Isaac Asimov.

      1. Simon Harris

        Re: The Bicentennial man

        I liked the version that he expanded it into with Robert Silverberg "The Positronic Man".

  22. Mage

    All true

    Also the $6 M man / cyborg / bionics is not the future, but being able to regrow missing/damaged eyes, fingers, legs, ear nerves, heart valves etc.

    Eventually metal hip replacements may become obsolete.

    Really I do like SF, but not the transhumanistic / cyborg / AI / identity upload to a computer stuff.

    Automating things that don't need fragile fake AI or dangerous humanoid robots is fine.

    Despite many failings, humans do self repair and many cope with the unexpected FAR better than any Machine Learning system ever will. Machines are good for boring, repetitive tasks in a perfectly controlled environment.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    attaching robot arms...

    "And if your robot arms have fallen off, how would a self-repairing robot re-attach them?"

    Pickle Rick solved this problem. It's not for the weak stomached among us.

  24. smudge

    Bill Nelson's mind-bending rarity Map of Dreams

    And while some may say this was a blessing, it was another eight weeks before I got to hear a single note of Bill Nelson's mind-bending rarity Map of Dreams.

    Playing it now - it's been many years since the last time. An interesting concoction of gentle instrumental music and found-sound voice samples.

    Bonus points if you watched the TV programmes for which they were the soundtrack. (I know I did - but I can't remember them.)

    Beer because the last track is "Water of Life (Transfiguration)", but you don't have a whisky icon...

    1. Blue Pumpkin

      Re: Bill Nelson's mind-bending rarity Map of Dreams

      Life in the air-age, it’s grim enough to make a robot cry ....

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spielberg's A.I.

    That movie was one of the biggest piles of garbage that was ever vomited onto the screen (movie, TV, or otherwise). If you haven't seen it, don't.

  26. USER100

    AI BS

    Excellent article. Yes indeed, biological life is totally underrated in its ablilty to repair itself.

    It seems obvious to me that 'thinking' (which is one of the goals of strong AI) is just not possible without 'feeling' - which requires biology. I'm amazed how many people still believe we'll be able to build a conscious computer, someday. Not saying to give up trying, as useful technological advances could be made in the attempt, but IMHO there is no way an artificial intelligence will ever be built (even if true quantum computers existed (and they might never)). All current AI systems are just big abacuses.

    This topic is discussed at length in Roger Penrose's great book, The Emperor's New Mind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @USER100 - Re: AI BS

      Machines should work for us, not think for us.

      1. Stoneshop

        Machines should work for us, not think for us.

        Although I know some people (using the term loosely here) who would definitely benefit from having a ZX81 installed. And that's with the ubiquitous wobbly RAM extension.

  27. LongtimeLurkerNewbieCommentard

    Dabbsy, my old friend..

    ... All the best with the move!

  28. Blackjack Silver badge

    And yet...

    I found an Atari in a friend basement, thankfully free of termites since the thing is mostly made out of wood, and it still works. My old CRT (Cathode-ray tube) TV has been working with no problems since 1996, save the TV remote needing a new case, and the only thing stopping my 1989 gameboy from still working is the fact that the screen is too scratched to be usable but everything else works.

    The problem is that they have made tech disposable on purpose, back when the Astroboy manga started, tech was still made sturdy and build to last. Some people have fridges from that time that still work with minimal maintenance.

    In fact, part of the reason of the great crash of 1929 was that consumers goods were too good and sturdy, so why would people replace them?

    Headphones used to last years, nowadays they are made disposable on purpose.

    Is all about money dear boy.

  29. Terry 6 Silver badge


    Forget pumps and batteries.

    Any future Android will have software carefully designed and thoroughly tested. Then fucked up at the last minute because the marketing dept. will suddenly decide that there needs to be advertising running just above the eyes, which is to directly linked to analysing the device's running task and feeding instructions back to the OS core.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Norman Collier, a legend from my days as a kid watching Tiswas.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    If your AI lovebot/secret rival/deadly experiment/monument-to-your-God-complex...

    is actually computerized, it will probably be utterly borked by a McAfee security update, or be taken out when you accidentally tip your cup of coffee onto it.

    1. Stoneshop

      Re: If your AI lovebot/secret rival/deadly experiment/monument-to-your-God-complex...

      In case of the secret rival, the 'accidental' may not be entirely so.

  32. Anonymous Custard

    Skip it

    to his surprise and disappointment, there is no skip labelled "EARPHONES"

    Did you look at the label on the bottom drawer of your filing cabinet?

  33. Anonymous South African Coward

    Eldest daughter got a bluetooth headset. Worked quite well, until the micro USB port started to tear loose from the circuit board.

    Opened it to find that its battery was also swollen.

    Just chucked it away and got a normal headphone with cabke that you can replace. No more problems.

  34. steviebuk Silver badge

    If they were made by Apple

    They'd break just outside of the warranty. The Genius Bar would say it would work out cheaper buying a new one that fix the old one. And you wouldn't be allowed to fix it yourself or take it to an independent repair shop.

    This is why we won't have AI robots in my life time.

  35. rfrazier

    C. Robert Cargill's SciFi book, *Sea of Rust*, describes a world in which androids will go quite some distance (physical and moral) to get spare parts.

    Best wishes,


  36. richrar

    Puts into perspective the fantasy of long term space travel when modern technology has a MTBF of less than a year. Imagine the spares list? Would we need manufacturing facilities for everything higher tech than a piece of string? That spacecraft is growing a little large. We too easily fantasize long lived robots, shiny liquid things that return to a set shape.... Things wear out, rust, etc.

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