2720: Biology vs Robotics

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Biology vs Robotics
Sorry, I've just always had these random things I don't like--like olives, or robots drilling holes in me without warning.
Title text: Sorry, I've just always had these random things I don't like--like olives, or robots drilling holes in me without warning.


In this comic, Cueball is walking along next to a robot holding a conversation – from this we can infer the robot is sentient or even sapient. Cueball is complaining to said robot about the problems of biology, especially his own biology, whining that "biology is the worst" and "bodies have all these random problems". The human body does have many challenges, ranging from the mildly inefficient to the lethal-without-warning, and culminating in irreversible senescence and obligate mortality. The robot, an abiological entity (some exceptions apply) responds by posing a question which may or may not be intended as rhetorical.

The robot thus highlights an advantage that biological bodies have – i.e., the ability to heal themselves, while metal robots like this one don't and probably must seek out repairs. However, Cueball immediately points out that this ability only works "sometimes", and is often painful. First and foremost, one must actually survive a hole if they wish to heal from it, as death comes with some pretty big impacts on their continuing ability to do so.[citation needed] Secondly holes can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, in many widths and depths with many further complications (including the aforementioned death). For example, a small hole made for an earring would be easy to close, whereas one carved by a 91.4cm mortar shell would be less easy to heal. There is also ambiguity in what counts as a hole. Is a cut a hole? Is surgery, etc? This variability is likely why Cueball says "Sometimes".

He also states that "it" is "not exactly fun". This is either sarcasm or an understatement, as some holes can really hurt. "It" is implied to be the holes themselves, as while the healing process can hurt, the formation of the hole (such as being shot) is often a lot more painful.[citation needed]

The title text is Cueball apologizing for his whining, explaining his frustration with certain things such as particular fruits and unexpected robotic incursions. He appears to equate these two issues, where most normal people would consider one a minor irritation, and the other a serious threat (though he may be deliberately making this comparison sardonically). Even when a robot is used purposefully for cutting into a human (such as robotic surgery), it should be expected and consented to. There are few situations where cutting open a human without consent would be considered socially, morally, legally or cybernetically acceptable in most countries [citation needed] (one example would be a trained medic trying to saving an unconscious person’s life by urgently cutting into them in some way).

Part of the humor may also derive from the fact that Cueball is complaining about things which the Robot could only dream of for its own future (self-repair, automatic recharging from abundant naturally occurring proteins [food], self-replication without external construction, etc). This is similar to 1839: Doctor Visit where the doctor marvels at the fact that "your body has been moving around for years and still works at all. My USB cables fray after like a month". Some people argue [citation needed] that self-replicating, self-repairing sentient robotics would in their complexity be quite similar to biological systems and might even suffer from similar problems.


[Cueball is walking to the left with a robot following behind him. It is a bit shorter than Cueball and is made out of three rectangles, one almost a square representing the head with a part representing where it can see the surroundings and a small antenna on the back. This is connected with a thin neck to a large rectangle representing the torso. This torso has three smaller rectangles, one on the front and one on the back, and a larger one on the side. The latter could represent some sort of arm. Below this is a thin rectangle with, probably, eight small wheels, four are visible. Motion lines indicate that the robot is rolling after Cueball. Cueball is holding both arms up with his palms up, while walking and talking to the robot:]
Cueball: Ugh, biology is the worst. Bodies have all these random problems.
[Same setting but with Cueball walking with his arms down. A scatter burst, from the top front of the robot's "head", indicates that it speaks to Cueball:]
Robot: Is it true that if someone makes a hole in you, it just closes up on its own?
[Same setting but in a wider panel. The scatter burst, indicating that the robot is speaking, now comes from the top rear end of the robot's "head".]
Cueball: Only sometimes. And it's not exactly fun.
Robot: Noted. I'll try to avoid perforating your surface.
Cueball: Thanks! It's kind of a pet peeve.

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The Explanation says "'Cueball complains to the robot that biology (And presumably being biological) is annoying/bad, stating "Biology sucks" and "Bodies have all these problems'" but the comic currently says "Biology is *the worst*. Bodies have all these *random* problems." Was the comic updated or is the explanation inaccurate? 23:29, 4 January 2023‎ (UTC)

As part of building the robot, Cueball (or xer builder, if he didn't build xim) have been drilling holes in xim. Xe doesn't care because xe doesn't have nerve endings. As a result of this conversation, xe discovers that the not-caring would not be reciprocated if xe began drilling holes in humans. (talk) 05:41, 5 January 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think it's not quite that, perhaps just more a passive-aggressive attitude by the robot, who just happens to know that any damage they suffer is going to need at the very least some form of metalworking handyman to patch the damage up (possibly an engineer). But there's not enough context to reliably narrow it down. For example, does a hole 'hurt' the robot (independently of whether it impairs functionality), or is it just an annoyance (or necessitates a system shut-down) until repairs are completed. Yet obviously they like the idea of having a self-repairing system, without understanding that there are different limitations and consequences...
But, the joke appears to be (to me) that the biological being is bemoaning all the flaws in his body's design, whilst not appreciating how truly remarkable are its many useful features, such as (limited, but not insignificant) recovery from trauma. Something the robot has its own perspective on. Simple as that? 10:54, 5 January 2023 (UTC)
Agree. The joke is Cueball is complaining about a situation where he has advantages over the robot. Kev (talk) 19:09, 5 January 2023 (UTC)

Very tempted to add in that, if there was a designer/engineer, the problems of biology might be so easily identified and designed out (or never designed in, in the first place). Except that there's often a few 'awkward' (or even unidentified) flaws in an ostensibly finalised project (at least with man-made things) and I also would attract the ire of the YECs/etc who believe there was a biological 'designer' (despite seemingly having made such errors along the way). 11:51, 5 January 2023 (UTC)

The paradox is that there 'is' an intelligent designer of robots, yet they don't have remarkable features like self-healing. While there are lots of problems in biology that would be considered design flaws if there were a designer (the inside-out placement of the optic nerve is the classic example), millions of years of evolution still produced results that are incredibly robust and far more flexible than anything human designers can create. Barmar (talk) 15:19, 5 January 2023 (UTC)
Yet, while the robot is a fairly new thing (less time to sort out the flaws, or understand how not to even introduce them) presumably created by a human (flawed and fallible, we all can agree), the whole issue of biology is millions of years in continuous test/development cycle (or maybe just thousands, but that's still more than mere years or decades) and that designer is supposed to be Perfect (omniscience, omnipresent and omnipotent) and should have been capable of resolving any loose ends they somehow allowed to be unresolved in the initially rushed six day period of manufacture and integration.
Ultimately, the reason our bodies weren't made to be unflawed (either initially or by tweaking further down the line) falls into the same sort of philosophical realm as "why do bad things happen" (indeed, it is one, perhaps with the likes of Methuselah and other antedeluvian lifetimes being deprecated after His watery 'product recall', as well as playing their part in confusing Bishop Usher's estimates).
Usually, the cover-all of having summarised God's 'plan' as being ineffable plasters over all the logical cracks, so it takes a very determined thinker to imagine they fully understand how it could (or could not) have happened, except by just applying the eponymous Razor and declaring all the unknowables to be irrelevent. (Which mightily upsets those who vehementally disagree, by their own principles.) So let us not go too deep into that, beyond acknowledging the competing ideas involved. 15:58, 5 January 2023 (UTC)

A self-sustaining, self-healing, self-replicating and self-improving system such as a biological one has a very significant limitation: it shall keep working from the very start and through every improvement, no "shutdown time". It is doomed to build upon itself, hence create many flaws and inefficiencies along the way. An electromechanical system built by an external actor may be assembled piece-by-piece from non-working parts and subsystems until it's ready to start. It could be shut down for repairs and improvements. -- 22:40, 5 January 2023 (UTC)

I don't understand how the recurrent laryngeal nerve qualifies as either a "challenge" (per the explanation) or a "random problem" per the comic.Jkshapiro (talk) 00:36, 3 November 2023 (UTC)