Tag Archives: ebay

Philosophical machines

Someone on QT3 linked this earlier this month. It’s a website with instructions to build what is billed as the “most useless machine ever”. Based on a design by Claude Shannon who is known as the founder of information theory, it’s a machine whose sole function when switched on is to switch itself off. Here’s the embedded video showing it in action:

Just today, I discovered something along the same lines, a machine that perpetually tries to sell itself on Ebay. Basically it’s a solid black box with a basic computer inside that can be connected to the Internet. Once every week, if it is able to connect to the Internet, it lists itself as being for sale on Ebay following the hard-coded instructions in its software. Its creator has written a comprehensive contract that goes along with the machine, mandating that every owner must allow it to connect to the Internet and must accept that the machine will sell itself one week after it comes into their possession.

The FAQ also states that in accordance with Ebay’s rules, the current owner cannot bid on the auction himself so he must allow the machine to be sold to someone else. The original creator, Caleb Larsen,  however promises that he will be around to provide maintainance for the device and to update its software if necessary. For example, if Ebay goes out of business, the software will be altered so that the machine will list itself for sale on an alternative platform. Its creator has named it “A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter”.