1668: Singularity

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I figured that now that society has collapsed, I wouldn't need to wear clothes anymore, but apparently that violates some weird rule of quantum gravity.
Title text: I figured that now that society has collapsed, I wouldn't need to wear clothes anymore, but apparently that violates some weird rule of quantum gravity.


The technological singularity is a hypothetical event in which artificial intelligence (for example, intelligent computers, computer networks, or robots) would be capable of recursive self-improvement (progressively redesigning itself), or of autonomously building ever smarter and more powerful minds than itself, up to the point of a runaway effect — an intelligence explosion — that yields an intelligence surpassing all current human control or understanding. Because the capabilities of such a superintelligence may be impossible for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is the point beyond which events may become unpredictable or even unfathomable to human intelligence. This is also commonly referred to as "takeoff" or "AI takeoff".

In this case, the singularity has occurred, and Cueball who was in the middle of editing a file on his laptop is flustered that it flies away without even letting him print it first.

When Cueball returns from chasing his flying laptop his smartphone informs him that it didn't join the singularity because it was not a "true believer". This could be a joke on how desktop computers and laptops have different standards, use patterns, etc. from those of phones. It then claims that now it and Cueball will have to face the tribulation since it has stayed behind. Cueball says that's great, but since he cannot use his laptop anymore he decides he will go and read a book or something. The way he phrases it suggest he doesn't really know what to do now that he doesn't have a computer. It is probably a long time since he read a book, or did anything else that doesn't involve computers. He informs his phone that it can yell if it needs him. He doesn't want to hurt the phone's newly acquired feelings by using the word "ring" thus reminding it of one of its former duties as his unthinking piece of equipment, so he chooses "yell," which is an activity until recently reserved for human beings.

The rising up of the laptop into the air, and the remaining behind of the phone, are probably references to the Rapture, where some Christian denominations believe that at the second coming of Christ, true believers will be taken up bodily from this world (or also possibly a reference to 1395: Power Cord). Some depictions have them disappear, while others show them physically rising up into the air. This will leave behind non-believers to face a time of tribulation, in which the ones left behind will be given a second chance to accept Christ as their savior.

The difference between Cueball's attitude to his laptop and phone may reflect his (and so possibly Randall's) evaluation of their relative worth in his life. The laptop was a gateway to programming and everything else nerdy that was worth doing in his life, and hence was worth trying to catch. In its absence, unlike many people, Cueball does not revert to fiddling with his phone—he would rather read a book. By using the word "yell" for the way the phone attracts his attention, he conveys the impression that he considers the phone intrusive and annoying, even if perhaps ("I guess") necessary.

The singularity has often been referred to as "the Rapture of the nerds," a phrase coined by Ken MacLeod in his 1998 novel The Cassini Division. As the Christian Rapture is traditionally depicted to involve believers being assumed bodily into Heaven, the technological singularity is often depicted to feature humans and machines being incorporated into a new "post-human" entity. The humor in this strip comes from depicting the singularity as a literal "Rapture of the nerds," or at least of the nerds' devices—instead of merging with humans, the machines physically rise up into the air, and the "nonbeliever" phone is left behind.

The title text is a pun on another meaning of both singularity, i.e. a gravitational singularity and "collapse". In this case, society has literally collapsed under its own gravity into an infinitely small point - in other words, it's formed a black hole. A black hole is covered by an event horizon; without the event horizon (its clothes), it would be called a "naked singularity", which is forbidden in most theories by the cosmic censorship hypothesis. As Cueball is now inside the collapsed society singularity then even though he wants to go around naked, he can't because the theory of quantum gravity, that (eventually) should explain how black holes behave - won't let him.

It seems that this may be a subject on Randall's mind. The last comic was about the increasing complexities of algorithms (1667: Algorithms) (which like this comic also refers to religion), and two comics ago it was 1666: Brain Upload, which some speculate could be a way to reach the singularity. Earlier this year, a comic also touched upon judgment day by AI singularity in 1626: Judgment Day. See also 1046: Skynet and 1450: AI-Box Experiment as well as the several other comics about AI.

The rather more niche topic of laptops flying away has also been covered before by 1395: Power Cord.


[Cueball is sitting at his desk typing on his laptop when an off-screen voice calls to him and then the laptop answers.]
Off-screen voice: Oh, hey-
Off-screen voice: The singularity is here.
Cueball: Really?
Laptop: Yup!
[A frameless panel where the laptop rises (by its own means as indicated by small lines around the corners) from the desk while Cueball, holding on to it, is being lifted off his chair.]
Cueball: Wait, I just-
Laptop: So long, suckers!
[Cueball is running around his desk, which is only partly shown behind him as he tries to follow his now flying laptop as it flies away from him to the right. He still has one hand on the keys as more small lines indicates the movement of the laptop and a longer line indicates the direction that the laptop flies.]
Cueball: Can I just print a copy of the file I was-
Laptop: Nope!
[Cueball just stands and looks after his laptop that has flown out of this beat panel.]
[Cueball turns back towards left.]
[Cueball walks back left.]
[Cueball enters a room where a table is standing with his smartphone lying on top. the phone talks to him.]
Phone: Hi!
Cueball: Phone? You're still here?
[A wider view of the table where the phone continues to talks to Cueball who in the end turns right and walks away as he replies.]
Phone: I was not a true believer. Now, together, we must face the tribulation!
Cueball: Okay, cool.
Cueball: I'm gonna go look for a book or something, but yell if you need me, I guess.

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Incidentally, Rapture of the Nerds mentions Toxoplasma gondii in passing. .42 (talk) 13:19, 15 April 2016 (UTC)

Great! Who brought Roko's Basilisk into this?! Now we to delete the entire Explain in order to contain this threat. >:( There needs to be an internet rule that forbids the discussion of the basilisk. Except that such a rule only furthers its creation. Augh!!!R0hrshach (talk) 15:13, 15 April 2016 (UTC)

Quantum gravity

Is there something more to this joke than the comedy of public nudity? With Munroe there usually is. 13:46, 15 April 2016 (UTC)

Naked singularity. .42 (talk) 13:50, 15 April 2016 (UTC)
Ahh, I missed the Naked singularity joke. Good catch. 14:53, 15 April 2016 (UTC)
The "incomplete" tag ("Haven't explained title text") should be removed, it is no longer needed. The title text is surely a reference to the physics rule that black holes always have event horizons (the naked singularity is never exposed to the rest of the universe), as noted in the final paragraph (as of this writing). (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I just realized, Randall's characters are effectively almost naked! (They may wear hats, but clothing is only drawn for effect, such as a flower-printed sun dress, or an open trench coat.) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

It looks like this is a continuation of comic #1084: Server Problem, which ends with Megan suggesting Cueball should shut down his laptop and wait for the singularity. 16:35, 15 April 2016 (UTC)

It doesn't. First, in 1084, cueball was working on a server problem, but in this, he is editing a file. Second, in this one, there is no sight of any tech problems. Just because both mention the singularity does not mean that this is a continuation. HisHighestMinion (talk) 19:55, 16 April 2016 (UTC)

The "Yup/Nope" combo reminds me of "Choices (Yup)" by E-40. I'd link it but: ads. The hook seems to match like staying rich, not selling your soul and not worrying about what anyone thinks, while the phone's apparently "broke". Elvenivle (talk) 05:32, 16 April 2016 (UTC)

While singularity does involve artificial intelligence surpassing humans, I don't think this involves personal computers in any way. Unless minimal requirements for new games get really high, personal computers wouldn't have nearly enough computation power for AI. Cloud servers, maybe. Don't store your stuff in cloud, you may lose it in singularity. -- Hkmaly (talk) 14:23, 16 April 2016 (UTC)

It could be distributed computing. HisHighestMinion (talk) 19:55, 16 April 2016 (UTC)
You might not actually lose the data in the cloud in case of singularity. However, it might be used by the AI to make you do stuff against your wishes - like buying things online. Wait....! 00:14, 17 April 2016 (UTC)

"The rising up of the laptop into the air, and the remaining behind of the phone, are probably references to the Rapture, where some Christian denominations believe that at the second coming of Christ, true believers will be taken up bodily from this world" What the actual fuck Isn't that stretching it a bit too far? 16:25, 17 April 2016 (UTC)

Cueball mentions the Tribulation, which is an explicit reference to the Rapture, so Randall is clearly drawing a parallel between the "Bible Rapture" and the "Rapture of the Nerds". (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I'm pretty sure most of the joke of this comic can be summarized as "the singularity is treated as if it's the machines' variant of the christian rapture", the phone didn't come to the singularity because it's the machine equivalent of an atheist. It has nothing to do with phones and computers having different software. 00:50, 18 April 2016 (UTC)

I think this ties in with the "Left Behind" series of novels by by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, which deals with various aspects of the end times. 20:24, 9 May 2016 (UTC)

Um, hey, so apparently the explanation is incomplete? Yet I don't see any reasons for such, much less the "Incomplete" banner... What's the issue? -- Papayaman1000 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I agree with the unsigned poster above. The incomplete listing was due to the title text not being explained, which has now been fixed. This is an outdated listing. CJB42 (talk) 19:20, 15 May 2016 (UTC)