Microsoft Error Reporting: Really A Search for Artificial Life?

In historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto's survey book Ideas that Changed the World, there is a section entitled "Impossibilism." In it, he reviews some of the paradoxes that philosophers like William of Ockhamâ''s raised for contentious debate in the 14th century, such as â''God can order you to commit murderâ'' or â''God can reward good with evil.â''

If William of Ockham were alive today, he would probably coin something appropriate about Microsoftâ''s problem reporting.

As I noted a few weeks ago, Microsoft captures and analyzes those errors that unfortunately but not unexpectedly pop up every so often, which on some days provides Microsoft with 50 gigabytes worth of problem data.

I was recently sent a link to a screen shot of an error message that I have never encountered:

Windows Problem Reporting Has Stopped Working

A problem caused the program to stop working correctly. Windows will close the program and notify you if a solution is available.

As the comments at the link note, this error message poses some very interesting philosophical paradoxes and implications. For instance, how can a solution be sent if the problem reporting scheme is not working? How can a solution even be available if the problem is not reported? Or does it really indicate that Windows has developed HAL-like self-awareness? This could help explain Microsoft's Potty Mouth Santa.

All this made me wonder whether:

a) Microsoft has another error monitoring program to watch for when its Windowâ''s Problem Reporting code has an error, and whether there is another one to watch for that one to have an error, and so on: all this watch watching might explain why its operating systems are so large, and;

b) if (a) above is not true, does the Microsoft error analyst team have a category for this specific types of error, waiting in hopes of an error turning up some day indicating that in fact Windows is now self-aware, kind of like the SETI folks do in waiting for that special signal from space to appear?


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City