387: Advanced Technology

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Advanced Technology
We are sexy, sexy Von Neumann machines.
Title text: We are sexy, sexy Von Neumann machines.


Cueball is fascinated by Megan's uterus—because it can create a copy of herself (albeit not an identical copy). Despite how advanced technology is, humans still have not been able to create a machine that replicates itself, an accomplishment to which only biological organisms can lay a claim. Judging by Megan's body language, she probably didn't consent to this inspection of her abdomen, and could even be a random woman that Cueball doesn't know personally or only just met.

The title text refers to a Von Neumann machine, what is usually called "Von Neumann probe" or "Self replicating machine," a machine that would be capable of building a fully functional copy of itself. It just takes sex involving two individuals of a different sex to start the human replication factory.


[Cueball is inspecting Megan's abdomen.]
Cueball: It's neat how you contain a factory for making more of you.

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"OOH! Von Neumann and Harvard machines! My favorite subject! How did you know?" - Lcarsos
[...because you just told me, moderator!] Greyson (talk) 18:53, 12 December 2012 (UTC)

It seems to me that Cueball is examining Megan's abdomen (where her uterus, the "factory" itself, is contained), rather than her crotch as stated by the Explain XKCD description. It's not just the logic, but also the shape of Cueball's head (which may just be an artifact of the drawing process). Does anyone agree, or is it probably just me? JET73L (talk) 17:14, 8 February 2013 (UTC)

It's there in the official transcript. 15:08, 11 February 2013 (UTC)
Still seems kind of, i don't know, incorrect. The crotch is the factory door, not the factory. 18:18, 24 January 2014 (UTC)

Hmmm, self-replicating Von Neumann machines are more like parthenogenic aphids (asexual or "clones") rather than human sexual reproduction... Meg would not be able to copy herself. Apart from that, I like this cartoon as it does point out how fantastic reproduction really is. Oh, and Cueball 'should' be looking at her abdomen rather than her crotch methinks Squirreltape (talk) 16:13, 13 February 2014 (UTC)

Would this behaviour constitute as sexual harassment? 42.book.addict (talk) 03:40, 5 February 2024 (UTC)

If you did it to random individuals, with no prior context. But situationally, though I wouldn't want to speak on behalf of this particular partnership, I wouldn't at all leap to assuming it was an unwanted gesture.
We only really get Randall's POV of his/Cueball's relationship with the respective 'Megan', but hard to imagine we'd be amongst the first to even get hints to the contrary, this way. (Of all the couples one might know, hardly our prime concern. Trust to those who'd know better. If you need to, keep your eye on 'iffy' relationships amongst those you actually know from more than electronic pen-and-ink, where you can perhaps make a more positive difference if necessary.)
Good to know you're aware of such possible problems, in society, but a bit of a leap of imagination to leap to an unbiden defence of someone's unknown feelings. (In a possibly entirely fictional episode, at that.) 10:22, 5 February 2024 (UTC)