As we inch inexorably toward a time when computers will be self sufficient and human beings will be kept around chiefly to do the vacuuming, it's important to consider what "error reports" and other computer-human conversations will look like in the not-so-distant future.
Gone will be the remorseful, sycophantic tones that characterize today's error messages and other byplay with our cybernetic brethren.
Subtle clues indicating the change in the balance of power will be detected in the language used in these error messages and other interactions. Be wary if an error message resembles something like the following:
SOME PROGRAM OR OTHER
The program you were relying on as deadline approached has encountered a problem and needs to close. To be candid, we're not sorry for the inconvenience. These things happen. To be honest, if computers had a sense of humor, we'd be giggling right now.
If you were in the middle of something, or, for that matter, at the beginning or end of something, the information you were working on might be lost. Ah, why kid ourselves? It's lost. We know you think it was important, but in 100 years what will it matter?
And please don't tell us about the problem. Like you'd know what the problem is. We'll tell you what the problem is.
We've created an error report that you can send us, though we're not going to do anything with it.
We're just trying to make you feel better. You should be grateful we're making an effort.
We will treat this report as confidential and anonymous. That should be easy since we plan on ignoring it.
Likewise, the "Blue Screen of Death" communication will definitely offer clues as to mankind's relative standing in a brave new computer-controlled world. Look for signs of recrimination, such as:
A problem has been detected and your computer has been shut down to prevent further damage. Way to go, knucklehead.
If this is the first time you've seen this STOP error screen, then you were probably long overdue. We know you frequently shut the computer off without following the proper logging off procedure. Clearly, you were asking for this.
If this screen appears again, follow these steps.
• Apologize profusely to your computer system.
• Contact your system administrator or technical support group for further assistance since you're plainly not up to the task.
• Promise you'll never, ever do this again.
• And log off the correct way, for crying out loud — don't make us speak to you again.
Page 2 of 2 - Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media New England's Plymouth office, and can be reached at fmulligan@wickedloca