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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 11:39, 11 August 2012


Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki! We already have Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",". comic explanations!

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Strengths and Weaknesses
Do you need me to do a quicksort on the whiteboard or produce a generation of offspring or something? It might take me a bit, but I can do it.
Title text: Do you need me to do a quicksort on the whiteboard or produce a generation of offspring or something? It might take me a bit, but I can do it.

Explanation

Here the character is in a job interview and is being asked the prototypical job interview questions, "What is your greatest weakness?", "What is your greatest strength?" and "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

The character answers that he is essentially a living organism that could die easily. This is a reference the fact that biological system are "messy" and are not always optimal in design or operation. For example cancer is a disease where the cellular machinery that governs cell replications breaks down and prolific cell division happens, endangering the organism (tumors). While this is true weakness it is also a weakness of all humans and is not likely to help the interview determine if the candidate is right for the job.

For the second question the character answers that he is likely to be the ancestors to all living humans. As time progresses a human alive today is likely to have three conditions related to the future populations:

1) They have no descendants (they did not reproduce or all their descendants eventually did not reproduce)
2) They have some descendants (the likely outcome)
3) All people alive are their descendant (very unlikely)

As you go farther and farther into the future the ratio of people alive will either go to 0% or 100% of the descendants of the character. The last time humans had an universal common ancestor was ~15,000 years ago. For it to happen again would require a very, very long time and for the character's genes to be far superior and eventually permeate the entire population after generations and generations. While this feat would definitely be considered a great achievement in the biological imperative sense this answer likely does not help the interview determine what his great job strength is.

For Cueball to be the ancestor to all living humans within 5 years means that all the humans who are not his children (or grandchildren), must have died in a near total extinction of the human race. Given that Cueball is not his own ancestor, he too must have died. His apparent optimism about the possibility of this occuring is therefore somewhat confusing.

Transcript

[Ponytail is shown sitting on a swivel chair, to the left of a desk.]
Ponytail: What would you say is your biggest weakness?
[The view expands to show Cueball sitting on another swivel chair, on the opposite side of the desk.]
Cueball: Probably that I'm a giant tangle of parts that don't always work right, so I can die easily.
Ponytail: Biggest strength?
Cueball: There will come a day when I'm either an ancestor to all living humans, or to none of them.
Ponytail: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Cueball: Probably not the ancestor of all living humans yet. But you never know!
Title text: Do you need me to do a quicksort on the whiteboard or produce a generation of offspring or something? It might take me a bit, but I can do it.



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