Go is an abstract strategy board game considered computationally difficult, compared to chess. Because of the size and number of possible combinations, computers don't have an easy way to exhaustively search for the best move. Still, they are getting better and better playing it. Megan suggests that computers may soon reach the level of being able to beat the best human players, an artificial intelligence milestone that has already been accomplished with other games. At the time of this comic, Go was one of the last games where a computer can still be beaten by top humans (see 1002: Game AIs). However, in May 2017, Google's AI AlphaGo defeated the world's top human Go player. This was referenced three months later in 1875: Computers vs Humans.
As a common human response, Cueball attempts to offer the consolation or defensive statement that humans remain better than computers at something else (see also 894: Progeny). In this case, the first thing he thinks of is that humans are better at making such consoling statements. However, Megan disproves Cueball's statement by creating a script in the Python programming language to create an abundant supply of such statements. An irony here is that each of the statements the computer generates defends humans, not computers.
Another such statement is made in the title text, that humans are better at quietly amusing themselves, oblivious to our "pending obsolescence" - which may refer alternatively to our inevitable deaths, or to the comic's own topic of our being replaced and surpassed by computers. The title text then again suggests, however, that the human statement is not true, referring to an Inspiron model of Dell computer which "quietly amuses itself" by showing a geometric screensaver as it presumably one day will be obsolete and replaced by a newer computer.
The original purpose of screensaver programs was to prevent images or characters from being burned into the phosphor layer of the older CRT displays. In more modern displays, including newer CRTs (cca mid-90s or newer), this could be achieved by simply turning it off after some period of time but originally there was no way to turn the display off programmatically. Thus the screensaver itself is already obsolete.
Gwern Branwen has used GPT-3 to generate reassuring parables.
- [Megan is sitting at a computer, and Cueball is standing behind her.]
- Megan: Looks like computers will beat humans at Go pretty soon.
- Cueball: Wow.
- Cueball: That's the last of the big ones.
- Megan: Yeah.
- [Megan looks back over her shoulder at him.]
- Cueball: Well, at least humans are still better at, uh,
- Cueball: coming up with reassuring parables about things humans are better at?
- Megan: Hmm.
- [Megan types on her computer.]
- type type
- [She leans back over her chair again and addresses Cueball.]
- Megan: I made a Python script that generates thousands of reassuring parables per second.
- Cueball: Dammit.
- Computer: Computers will never understand a sonnet computers will never enjoy a salad comp—
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