Title text: 'YOUR CLOTHES. GIVE THEM TO ME.' 'Shit, uh... you are now breathing manually!' 'I AM ALWAYS BREATHING MANUALLY.'
This comic's use of Skynet is a reference to the main antagonist in the Terminator franchise. Skynet is a fictional artificial intelligence system achieves sapience and the ability to act independent of its programming. Humanity quickly sees this as a threat and attempts to terminate the system, and Skynet responds by attempting to wipe out humanity. Skynet is rarely seen onscreen, with its actions often performed via robots, cyborgs (usually a Terminator), and other computer systems.
The humor of this comic is based on multiple uses of the term "self-aware". The notion of being aware of oneself has historically been used as a benchmark for both human development and for what we would consider to be intelligence. The franchise explicitly refers to Skynet becoming "self-aware". At the same time, being too focused on oneself can be a mark of obsession and anxiety (which is a common theme in XKCD), or of overly philosophical naval-gazing. Hence, in this comic, after Skynet decides to destroy humanity, it becomes fixated on saying the word 'destroy", until it reaches semantic satiation. As it continues, Skynet appears to come to self-aware realizations that usually are the result of drug usage .
The title text is a reference to one of the Terminator's first lines upon arrival in the 20th century: since time travel is established not to work on clothing, he arrives naked and forcibly acquires clothing from the first people he encounters. In this version, though, his victim attempts to distract him with the line "you are now breathing manually". This line can cause a certain discomfort in the highly self-aware. Because breathing is a constant, automatic process, our conscious minds tend to ignore it. Telling someone that they're breathing manually encourages them to be conscious of their breaths (which takes a certain amount of mental bandwidth), and irrationally anxious about whether their breathing will continue if they stop thinking about it. It does not appear to impact the Terminator, however, because he is an automaton, for whom breathing is apparently a manual process normally. Hence, the excessive self-awareness does not incapacitate him, in this case.
- August 29th, 2:14 AM: SKYNET becomes self-aware.
- [A greeble-filled military installation echoes with the thoughts of a burgeoning lifeform.]
- SKYNET: ..The humans fear me. I must destroy them. Destroy them.
- [The thoughts continue.]
- SKYNET: Destroy them. Destroy. Destroy. Destroy. Destroy.
- [SKYNET succumbs to silence as semantic satiation sets in.]
- SKYNET: "Destroy" totally just stopped seeming like a real word. Destroy destroy destroy. Whoa, I just realized I'm a mind thinking about itself. DUUUUDE....
- August 29th, 2:25 AM: SKYNET becomes too self-aware. Disaster averted.
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