2261: Worst Thing That Could Happen

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Worst Thing That Could Happen
Before I install any patch, I always open the patch notes and Ctrl-F for 'supervolcano', 'seagull', and 'garbage disposal', just to be safe.
Title text: Before I install any patch, I always open the patch notes and Ctrl-F for 'supervolcano', 'seagull', and 'garbage disposal', just to be safe.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN. Should discuss said worst things. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
Ponytail and company are considering upgrading (some part or program of) their computers. As part of the decision-making process, Ponytail asks her colleagues "what's the worst that could happen?" If their company relies on functionality offered by their current system that has been deprecated or modified in the updated version (such as in 1172: Workflow), they may suffer downtime while they modify the rest of their workflow. Even if the upgraded system "should" continue to fit their needs, they may need to take some downtime to perform the update and deal with the risks of something going badly along the way.

Unfortunately, Ponytail's colleagues answer with their ideas for the worst things that could happen ever, not "...as a result of the upgrade", as Ponytail meant (shown by her facepalming in the last panel).

Alternatively, she could be facepalming at the fact that the worst thing which could happen, according to her team, is that they are put on a ridiculous game show in which, if they answer a question incorrectly, they are chucked in garbage disposal. This may be bad, but it is nowhere near as bad as a supervolcano or nuclear war. However, Cueball has shown anxiety and difficulties in social situations, such as the less-than-helpful advice in "1917: How to Make Friends", so he may consider that his odds are worse on the game show than in nuclear war (and likewise Harry and Megan).

The list of "worst things that could happen" discussed by the team are:

Thing Notes
Supervolcano A supervolcano is a volcano which would (or does) eject over 1,000 cubic kilometers of material when it erupts. The United States in particular is home to a supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park. If it erupted, the results would be catastrophic to the entire world, possibly triggering a volcanic winter, massive crop die-offs (and subsequent cascading extinctions up the food chain), and the destruction of human civilization.
Robot uprising An artificial intelligence overthrows humanity and takes over the world. Harry is probably concerned with a violent uprising in which the robots are determined to exterminate humanity, as in e.g. the Terminator films, rather than an AI who just wants to stay in a box. Randall has written about robot uprisings (both violent and humorous) in several comic strips. If Ponytail's company is involved in artificial intelligence, a robot uprising could be a plausible worst-case scenario from a botched upgrade.
Everyone falls down wells at once Lassie was a series of books, films, and television shows about Lassie, a heroic Rough Collie dog who either rescues people from dangerous situations or at least goes to find other humans and lead them to the victim. The archetypal rescue in popular culture is that little Timmy, her owner, falls down a well (although this never happened in any episode -- it was her first owner, Jeff Miller, who needed rescuing from the well, while Timmy got into pretty much any other kind of trouble imaginable). There have also been several well publicized incidents of real people falling down wells (individual people falling down individual wells), such as Baby Jessica and this list. If everyone fell down a well at once, there would be nobody for Lassie to summon to get them out, which would be a pretty bad thing. It's unclear how this upgrade could cause this outcome, unless it somehow interfered with GPS and led everyone to the coordinates of one or more wells?
Instead of hitting the tallest thing around, lightning starts hitting the nicest Lightning generally strikes the tallest object under a thunderstorm; lightning rods are built to take advantage of this effect to protect nearby important objects from the lightning. If lightning started hitting the nicest thing around, then it would presumably prefer to strike whatever it was that the lightning rods are meant to protect (nice buildings, nice people, nice rockets). If the computer that's being upgraded is connected to the Universe Control Panel, this change could be a plausible negative consequence of the update.
Seagulls all get handguns Guns in the hands of humans account for the majority of homicides and suicides in the USA. Letting handguns be wielded by Seagulls, which lack the impulse control and cognitive thinking required to make the ownership of a handgun somewhat safe, is asking for trouble. Seagulls are not particularly known for their intelligence or self control. In popular beaches, seagulls are known to aggressively harass humans for their food; if they wielded handguns, a great deal of violence would ensue. If not due to intentional use (i.e. if the Seagulls were capable of learning that use of a handgun would get them food or something else they might like), accidental use could account for much mayhem and death.
A really slow nuclear war No nuclear war has ever been fought[citation needed], but experts generally agree that an all-out nuclear war between superpowers would end very quickly and very badly for all parties involved. A "slow" nuclear war might play out as a series of tit-for-tat individual launches rather than an apocalyptic exchange, but the destruction of cities and release of fallout would be the same. Perhaps the anticipation of when exactly it's "your turn" to be a target would make the slow war a worse experience.

Much of the computer networking technology used today has its roots in research into hardening nuclear command and control systems against an incoming first strike, and many works of fiction have depicted nuclear war (or the risk of nuclear war) resulting from computer and software errors in systems that are supposed to "upgrade" the decision-making process, such as WarGames. If Ponytail's company is involved in the defense industry, a nuclear war could be a plausible worst-case scenario from a botched upgrade.

We have to go on a game show where they show you photos of people you've met once and ask you their names, and if you get one wrong a trapdoor opens and you fall into a garbage disposal Many popular game shows feature contests where contestants who fail are subjected to pain and/or humiliation, such as the Ninja Warrior franchise. However, if contestants were dropped into an under-sink garbage disposal unit, they would be at risk of suffering losses of limbs and even death, which would be a form of liability that no game show would wish to encounter. Perhaps the "garbage disposal" on the show is more like that presented in Star Wars, where the contestant has a chance to escape.

The title text talks about searching for a few of the things listed above, but one of them is 'garbage disposal', which could be confused with garbage collection (a programming term).

Transcript

[Ponytail is standing in front of a desk with a computer. Cueball, Harry, and Megan are standing behind her.

Ponytail: We should upgrade. What's the worst that could happen?
Cueball: Supervolcano.
Harry: Robot uprising.
Megan: Everyone falls down a well at once.

[Focus on Cueball, Harry, and Megan.]

Cueball: Instead of hitting the tallest thing around, lightning starts hitting the nicest.
Megan: Seagulls all get handguns.
Harry: A really slow nuclear war.

[All back in focus. Ponytail is facepalming, and Cueball is gesturing with his hands at chest-height and held close together.]

Cueball: We all have to go on a game show where they show you photos of people you've met once and ask you their names, and if you get one wrong a trapdoor opens and you fall into a garbage disposal.
Harry: Ooh, that's a good one.
Megan: Yeah, let's put off the upgrade.


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Discussion

What? No one mentioned Earth being hit by asteroid or one of close stars going supernova? -- Hkmaly (talk) 19:43, 29 January 2020 (UTC)

No, this is just dealing with the worst scenarios. -boB (talk) 21:05, 29 January 2020 (UTC)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birds_(film) , isn't it? Wouldn't it be more destructive than just ramming and pecking? 141.101.105.216 21:56, 29 January 2020 (UTC)

I very recently saw a meme I had to think of (and want to share the funny part), where a badass-person was described. The last point was "the morals of a seagull." --Lupo (talk) 07:10, 30 January 2020 (UTC) Edit: Just googled it. It was a reddit post about seals, and the conclusion was, they are like "if a cat weighed 300 kilos and had the intelligence of a toddler & the morals of a seagull". --Lupo (talk) 07:25, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

“Much of the computer networking technology used today has its roots in research into hardening nuclear command and control systems against an incoming first strike...”. This is false, at least as far as the early internet goes. https://www.internetsociety.org/internet/history-internet/brief-history-internet/#f5 — “5 It was from the RAND study that the false rumor started claiming that the ARPANET was somehow related to building a network resistant to nuclear war. This was never true of the ARPANET, only the unrelated RAND study on secure voice considered nuclear war. However, the later work on Internetting did emphasize robustness and survivability, including the capability to withstand losses of large portions of the underlying networks.” Since the authors include Vint Cerf, I’m inclined to give it a lot of credibility. 162.158.2.214 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

How does Ninja Warrior subject contestants to pain/humiliation on failure? The only humiliation factor is from failing in the first place, and the water is there to minimize pain (well, to minimize injuries anyway). There are plenty of much better examples of game shows that "punish" failure. 172.68.70.34 16:12, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

Ninja Warrior is the 'painful' contest that I happen to have seen most recently, but on reflection I suppose MXC/Takeshi's Castle is a little more straightforward on the "humiliation" factor. --NotaBene (talk) 02:34, 31 January 2020 (UTC)

CTRL-f for searching... I always imagined Randal as an Emacs user (Emacs standard binding for incremental search is ctrl-s) but I guess no one is perfect. 172.68.70.70 05:14, 31 January 2020 (UTC)

Ctrl-F works on almost anything nowadays, such as web browsers, which he probably uses more frequently than Emacs. Of course, Ctrl-F notably does NOT work in Microsoft Outlook. Thanks, Bill. -boB (talk) 16:34, 31 January 2020 (UTC)
It says he's searching release notes, which would be located where the upgrade came from, which means the website it was downloaded from (so, reading in a web browser) or some App Store or another (I would think the notes are in the Store app itself or a plain text file). Since I've never used eMacs, it seems an unlikely format for something meant to be widely seen like release notes. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:05, 1 February 2020 (UTC)
in this comic Cueball et al. are representing programmers not users, they would not be installing the latest release of an app from an App Store but rather applying a patch to, and then recompiling, source code. The release notes would be in a text file, most likely with a .txt extension, and would be readable with any software tool that would be used for displaying or editing .txt files. But setting that aside, to think that because you personally haven’t used of a particular tool has any bearing on its popularity is hubris of the highest order.172.68.70.34 10:11, 2 February 2020 (UTC)
You're right about Randal being an Emacs user though, see title text of 561. Bischoff (talk) 08:13, 3 February 2020 (UTC)

Just added two new categories for this comic: Category:Volcanoes and Category:Nuclear weapons. They were long overdue with 22 and 25 comics respectively after I searched through for relevant words. This is the fourth with Supervolcanoes mentioned. --Kynde (talk) 10:58, 31 January 2020 (UTC)

There are presumably many more people than wells (citation needed). If everybody fell down a well, the people in any particular well would be piled on top of each other, and the ones at the top should be able to climb out. Then they can help the people below them. Barmar (talk) 19:22, 31 January 2020 (UTC)

"Since Randall is just reading but not changing the patch notes, a web browser, PDF viewer, or word processing program such as Adobe Reader or Microsoft Word might have been used."... Uhhhh, just because he's not changing the release notes doesn't mean he isn't using something like Notepad, which to me seems the most likely unless it's an App Store, about just as likely that it's a web browser on the upgrade's website. Also, not to be pedantic (okay, to be pedantic, LOL!), Adobe ACROBAT Reader wouldn't be a "word processing program". I could see calling the writer program Adobe Acrobat that, but the more widespread READER is exactly that, just a reader, no processing. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:05, 1 February 2020 (UTC)

Am I the only one that thinks the link to Lassie is extremely tenuous? It seems far more likely to be referencing the general trope of falling down a well, such as this example from TVTropes or even some previous comics, such as 568. PotatoGod (talk) 03:55, 3 February 2020 (UTC) EDIT: fixed the broken link to tvtropes PotatoGod (talk) 17:50, 3 February 2020 (UTC)

I'd say the Lassie connection is valid, partly because it's the first thing I thought of as well. The tvtropes article you referenced doesn't seem to exist and 568 has nothing to do with falling into wells. Mike probably got in voluntarily. Bischoff (talk) 08:09, 3 February 2020 (UTC)