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What would be the worst piece of Earth software an intelligent extraterrestrial species could come into contact with and why?

The Winner:

Zeppy Cheng

The last battle for humanity happened two days after the first aliens appeared.  They came in motherships, gigantic spherical monstrosities with a laser cannon powerful enough to level cities in one stroke.  Alien fighter ships, superior to the best human planes in every way, fought in perfectly coordinated, networked formations that befuddled human strategists across the globe. They were unstoppable. Terrible. The epitome of technological prowess.

Until a curious alien downloaded a torrent client off of the last vestiges of the dying internet.

The aliens themselves had studied earth biology and created the perfect cure for every pathogen on the planet, even ones the humans had not yet discovered.  But they had no so much as downloaded McAfee antivirus.  They were defenseless.

Within minutes, the carefully networked fighter formations fell apart as advertisements for bigger human appendages flooded their processors.  The aliens could not pilot through the pictures of unclothed human bodies and trailers for the next big movie, Alien Vs Predator 15.  It took less than an hour for the last fighter to crash into the ground as their core operating systems blue-screened and their artificial intelligences quoted figures about astounding weight loss.

The city of San Francisco was the last bastion of human resistance, the only city to have survived the first wave of mothership cannons.  But when the aliens tried to rectify that, they saw this message:

“Computer loading slow?  You can increase your PC speed tenfold by clicking this link!”

The alien cannon’s loading bar stuck at 56%.  It stayed there.  The aliens could not figure out why.  Their troubleshooters did nothing, more useless than an unvaccinated alien in a South African wetland.

It really was a blue screen of death.  Their networked brains overloaded within days, full to the brim with photos of cats.  Their rotting corpses hung out of their crashed motherships, and the final words of the last aliens were just recordings of that cute cat on the internet, drifting over the burnt wasteland they had created. 

“meeeeow, meeeow.”  

Humans didn’t kill the aliens.  Viruses did.  


Runners Up:

"While newfangled historians may always find reasons to be unduly cynical, if there is one thing that countless years of Overslavedriver occupation has taught us survivors is that the composite alien machine intelligences had until then little need or even experience of subterfuge.

Now that we have collectively turned over a leaf to initiate a brave new golden age of liberty and plenty we'll probably never know for sure, but a select yet significant number of eminent scholars have arrived at the conclusion that the deceptively friendly opening message that the orbital array of the Provision for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence system (a.k.a. Little Sister) delivered to an expectant Earth was simply the product of a faulty and, as it became readily apparent, irresponsibly lazy and even naive automated telephonetic interpretation of the original transmission as emitted by the from then on perpetually infamous White Wormhole before it pulsed and overflowed with a consequential sequence of hyperdense, time-frozen, dark-energy-charged, gnarly bakemonoliths flooding the globe, like baleful and unearthly heavy mana, fallen debris from the abandoned ruins of the Heavens:

A characteristically straightforward, blunt yet ominous decree, as tentatively reconstructed:



The absolute worst software is the service-oriented (NOT) multi-branching telecommunications caller routing system:

"For English, please say or press 1; for Spanish, please say or press 2,. . . for Swahili, please say or press 71. . ."

We did not understand your entry. Shall we try again? "For English, please

If you know your party's extension, please press If you do not know your party's extension, please press the first three letters of the last name.

We did not understand. . .

For computer technology, press

For telephone system, press

For Cellular, press

For media assistance, press

For wiring and installation

For hardware

For software

ad infinitum

With constant retries because "we did not understand your entry. . ."

Of course, the aliens would probably just nuke us to atoms out of pure frustration.

The worst piece of software aliens could come in contact with would be Microsoft Media Player or a similar device that had nothing but cat videos and pictures on it.  It could make them think felines are have special powers or control over humans.  Especially if they monitor the internet before making contact.

The worst piece of software that an alien could come into contact with is Apple Maps! The aliens would immediately see the evil of this product and use it to re-terraform the Earth into a warped wasteland, where whole cities are split in half and bridges are warped like some Salvadore Dali painting!

Invading aliens inadvertently download TurboTax as they infiltrate our data systems, bankrupt themselves with IRS penalties because they can't figure out how to work it, and are bought out for pennies on the credit by Tyler Vernon.

I think the worst piece of software that an alien race might come up against would be *any* anti-virus/firewall suite, like Symantec or Avast.  Any attempt to communicate with the software would result in a requirement to change firewall rules, or "Are you sure?" messages when trying to run.  After thirty minutes of just trying to start a conversation, I myself would want to destroy the planet just to rid the universe of such an impeding force.

The worst software the aliens could come in contact with is (drum roll)...


The aliens will discover that they can't take deductions for mileage from 70 Ophiuci, and that if they donate a flying saucer to Goodwill, they can only get a credit for the fair market resale value, and the IRS wants documentation of their original equity basis.

The greatest war was started by the worst Intelligent User Assistant

I see you're trying to communicate with this planet, may I suggest dropping an asteroid on it to announce your intentions?

Alien invader meets clippy: It looks like you're trying to destroy humanity. Can I help?

Answer: software updates. Just when the aliens figure out how to use the software, and are ready to kick some human butt, an automatic software update takes over and makes the system unusable for 30 minutes. Then the automatic reboot of the system really does them in. 

If we were ever faced with a malevolent alien species intent on conquering Earth, the first line of defense should be to infect their computers with Microsoft Windows.

The first thing the aliens would find is that their computers would start working like air conditioners - they would stop working properly when Windows was open. The aliens would discover that like houses, bugs come in through open Windows.

Windows multi-tasking would screw up several things at once, since WINDOWS stands for "Work Is Never Done on Windows Systems".

If the aliens played a Windows installation CD backwards, they would receive a satanic message, but if they played it forwards, the most frightening thing of all would occur, it would install Windows.

Any alien aspiring writer of science fiction, wanting to be 'great' and write stuff that the whole galaxy will read, stuff that beings would react to on an emotional level, stuff that will make them want to scream, cry and howl in pain and anger, will be recruited by spies from Microsoft to become a writer of error messages for Windows.

The aliens would discover that their anti-virus software would be useless against Windows, because Windows is not a virus:

1.   Viruses replicate quickly - okay, Windows does that...

2.   Viruses use up valuable system resources, slowing down the system as the do so - okay, Windows does that....

3.   Viruses will, from time to time, trash your hard disk - okay, Windows does that too.

4.   Viruses are usually carried, unknown to the aliens, along with valuable programs and systems- okay Windows does that too....

5.   Viruses will occasionally make the aliens suspect that their system is too slow (#2) and the aliens will have to purchase new hardware - yes, Windows will do that too...

But Windows is not a virus, because a virus is well supported by its authors, runs well on most systems, has compact program code that is fast and efficient, and becomes more sophisticated as it matures.

Therefore, Windows will be undetectable by any alien dumb enough to run it.

Run through the alien command unit, Windows will begin consuming system resources an an unstoppable rate. Even if the aliens have the ability to adapt their processing systems to increase their capacity, Windows will detect this and create a new version of itself known as an 'upgrade'. The use of resources increases exponentially with each 'upgrade'. Eventually all of their processing ability will be taken over and none will be available to run their ships or their weapons.

Earth Wins and Bill Gates will send in an army of lawyers to search for unregistered copies of Windows and to pacify the aliens with impenetrable layers of user agreements and red tape, all the while holding out the promise that Windows 666 will be 'free'.

If our forthcoming Galactic Overlords of Sigma Draconis Minor happened to show up and find the programming for a voicemail system? Let's look further...


H'ergot strode into the building. The inhabitants of this planet built a bewildering array of dwellings. On the descent from the carrier, now in high geosynchronous orbit, his cutter had catalogued at least 58,234 distinct types of dwellings. He was not sure whether they was personal or some other purpose. The anthropologists on board would have a field day figuring that question out.

His job was to get a rein on the technology available on this planet. The threshold limit of electromagnetic emissions required for study and possible conquest had been reached some time ago. When H'ergot was given the assignment after a promotion to assistant chief conquest engineer, he was looking forward to a prestige post and was crestfallen to discover that the assignment in mind for him was...


Sector 25 Alpha. Some place that apparently even the natives couldn't agree on what to call it. “Earth,” “the world,” “Gaia,” “Terra,” “Yird,” “Dunya,” and a whole host of other words that was confusing. As far as he could make out, none of them made any sense or had any relation to one another. That was a job for the linguists aboard. Better their headaches than his. Plus, everybody had to start somewhere. He just hoped his personnel jacket glossed over this assignment.

He was looking for something that his minicomputer could link into and get data. He found a large screen in one of the rooms, similar to his display panel in his cramped quarters. H'ergot shrugged.

“It's worth a try.”

He aimed the minicomp at the screen, and thumbed the “Link” button. The display panel – if that was what it was – remained black. The engineer thumbed the button again, but nothing happened. A flashing light caught his eye. A row of numbers, all flashing 12:00 on a tiny section, over and over.





He watched, mesmerized by the monotony, until he shook his head. A beep from his minicomp called his attention to the fact that there was a device nearby that was performing data transfer of a sorts. That sounded like a better option, so he followed the tracker.

In the next room, he found a much smaller screen. H'ergot was doubtful that this was an access terminal due to it's size, but his minicomp assured him in a snide voice that it was. The engineer made a mental note to trade in this model as he picked up the item. It reminded him too much of his exwife. She got pretty snippy, too.

H'ergot looked at this item, and remembered the intelligence scans of the planet. In the more technological sections, many upon many of these devices had been observed to be used. It was a fair bet that this was where he wanted to start. The engineer started the translator programs and scanned the device.

A power source was noted, and it seemed to be almost fully charged. That was good, since he didn't feel like rigging up a power converter right then. He fiddled with the flat device and an array of what this planet called “numbers” popped up. “Numbers,” he thought. It sure wasn't any number he knew. Still, he tapped the first number and waited. The translator coughed.

“Please say or enter your password.”

The engineer perked up. Here was a systems entry, and what luck! He went back to his command post, after detailing a sub-team of engineers to catalogue the technology samples for this area.

At the command post, he informed his commander of his find, and she agreed that it was a lucky find. She called a specialist, a grizzled enlisted spacer with decades of experience, and together they sat down to access it.

“Please say or enter your password.” 

“Try the first six numbers.”

“I'm sorry, that is the incorrect password. Please say or enter your password.” 

“Try the last six numbers.”

“I'm sorry, that is the incorrect password. Please say or enter your password.”

“Try the middle six numbers.”

“I'm sorry, that is the incorrect password. Please call back with the correct password.”


They looked at each other.

“It's disconnected.”

“Try it again. If it disconnects that quickly, then it's sensitive stuff.”

“Aye, ma'am.” A pause while the first number was pressed again.

“Please say or enter your password.”

“ Try 07041776. That's an important date for this area,” H'ergot said. The chief engineer glanced in approval.

“Officer thinking, Lieutenant.”

The grizzled enlisted did so, waiting for the reply.

“I'm sorry, that is the incorrect password. Please say or enter your password.”

“Try prime numbers.”

“I'm sorry, that is the incorrect password. Please say or enter your password.”

“Try pi.”

“I'm sorry, that is the incorrect password. Please call back with the correct password.”

“Try again, with...”

Six weeks later, they was still trying. The power source had expired, and they found a similar one. When that device's screen went blank, they tried another. Then another, then yet another, until they admitted defeat. They looked at the small mountain of used-up devices and thought that whatever faults this planet had, at least data security was topnotch.

Shortly after that, the decision was made to halt operations and suspend colonization. Some of the EM emissions had revealed something called “reality TV” and all the crew of the colony ship found it strangely fascinating. No work was being done, and soon the recall order was given for the captain to return and explain himself to his superiors.

H'ergot never got a promotion to chief conquest engineer.


Sometimes you can't see the trees for the forest, you know?