19 October, 2007

More on calculators

Thinking about singularity is fun, but the over-dependence on calculators could be exploited by humans as well. As far as I know, most (all?) of the electronic components (and end-user products) are made by just a few companies. Therefore, it wouldn't be hard for them to make an agreement so that all calculators sold worldwide are "tainted".

In what way? For example, the calculators could compute 15% incorrectly -- i.e. if someone wants to know how much a $65 sweater costs at a 15%-off sale, she'd get not $55.25, but, say $56.35. Looks pretty close, right? But with hundreds of millions of items sold with 15% discount, the little errors are going to accumulate to a significant surplus for retailers, which they should be glad to share with the electronics makers.

And suppose some egghead sues them:

Judge: So, Mr. Mathnerd, could you state the nature of your complaint.
Mathnerd: Well, 15% of $65 is $9.75, not $8.65, so 15% off $65 should be $55.25, not $56.35
Judge: And how do you know that?
Mathnerd: I submit to this court exhibit A, which is a Quizno's napkin with my manual calculations. Anyone can do the calculation for themselves and see that I'm right.
Judge: What is this? Some filthy napkin, I'm not touching this! But I can certainly check your math!

Judge pulls a calculator, pushes a few buttons... $56.35!
Mathnerd: But...
Judge: Stop wasting the court's time! Case dismissed!

Nobody will hear your screams

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