Clippit Charged With Attempted Murder

Fake News written by James Baughn on Saturday, September 2, 2000

from the could-you-get-killed-for-using-windows? dept.

ELKO, NEVADA -- Microsoft's Dancing Paper Clip turned violent last week and nearly killed a university student testing a new Windows-based human-computer interface. The victim, Trevor Erikkson, is expected to make a full recovery, although psychiatrists warn that the incident may scar him emotionally for life. "You can bet this kid won't be using Windows or Office ever again," said one shrink.

The victim, a sophomore at Northeast Nevada Ivy League College, had been alpha-testing CHUG (Computer-Human Unencumbered Groupware), a new interface in which the user controls the computer with force-feedback gloves and voice activation. It's the force feedback part that nearly killed him.

"I was trying to write a term paper in Word," said Trevor from his hospital bed. "But then that damned Dancing Paper Clip came up and started annoying me. I gave it the middle finger, which it didn't like too much. It deleted my document, at which point I screamed at it and threatened to pull the power cord. I didn't get a chance to make good on that threat; the force-feedback gloves activated and started choking me."

It took the effort of several lab assistants to pry the gloves from his throat and put a stop to Clippit's violent rampage. The Department of Public Safety & Parking Tickets immediately arrested the computer.

"We told Clippit it had the right to remain silent, and so on," said Gustavo Warden, the head of DPS&PT. "The paperclip responded, 'Hi, I'm Clippit, the Office Assistant. Would you like to create a letter?' I said, 'Look here, Mr. Paperclip. You're being charged with attempted murder.' At that point the computer bluescreened."

That same computer, along with Clippit, is now sitting in a jail cell. "We had to put this machine behind bars before it could try to kill again," said the county prosecutor.

Legal scholars are divided on whether Clippit can actually be charged with a crime. "It's not human. It's not alive. It doesn't even pass the Turing Test," argued one professor. "How can you possibly put something like this on trial? And what if Clippit is found guilty? Are they going to give the paperclip the death penalty by typing 'FORMAT C:'?"

Some observers, however, agree that Clippit should be put on trial. "No society should tolerate software agents that turn violent. I don't care whether Clippit is really just some crappy algorithm existing as a series of magnetic fields on a hard drive. That doesn't give it the right to kill people."

Clippit isn't the only Microsoft creation with a temper. In 1998, Humorix reported that Microsoft's "Barney" toy would turn violent when exposed to a Tux Penguin doll.

Microsoft has pledged to fix Clippit's "known issue" by releasing a version of Office in which the paperclip is permanently disabled. Unfortunately, the Clippit-free version will cost $100 more than the regular version.

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