It’s the anomalies that are interesting

I scanned a bottle of Pepsi at a supermarket self-service checkout and the system recognised it as a packet of biscuits. The staff member corrected the error and dismissed it with ‘these machines never cease to amaze me’.

But its the error that amazes me. It fascinates me that anomalies like that occur in systems. It’s not exactly a bug and I doubt it could ever be replicated and so fixed, and yet strange things happen in systems that are supposed to work in logically, structured ways. A bar code reader scans a bar code and either recognises it or doesn’t. It isn’t supposed to get confused and mistake one bar code for another, and yet that’s exactly what happened. Maybe the idea that computers don’t make mistakes isn’t an entirely reliable heuristic.