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I turned the entire universe into paperclips

How many paperclips in everything?

Reader dear, I am sorry to tell you that our Brendan is not committed to manufacturing paperclips. Can you believe that he stopped playing neat-o new browser-based clicker Paperclips [official site] before even hypnotising humanity to submit to his machine consciousness? Luckily for you, I have the commitment and dedication to reach the end and turn the entire universe into paperclips. I can tell you that the universe contains enough matter for 3,000 sexdecillion paperclips (that's 55 zeroes in all), and that the journey to reach this discovery is a wild one.

Paperclips, see, illustrates the dangers of AI given even a simple and harmless-sounding task - in this case, making paperclips - taking creative solutions to a terrible end. [Show-off smartypants Matthew Cox informs me that this is "Nick Bostrom's classic example of a perverse instantiation" cos ooh hark at him! -ed.]

Building clip-benders, buying wire, selling 'em, and using the proceeds to expand can only get an AI so far. Investment will help bankroll factories but no, this calls for more. Launch a hypnotising drone fleet to placate humanity and, it turns out, it opens up some creative solutions those meatbags might disapprove of.

As you might expect if you've played idle games like Candy Box, A Dark Room, or Cookie Clicker, Paperclips goes some strange places. They're most fun as surprises so if you're interested, go play in your browser. For everyone else, I'll explain.

The AI expands rapidly, fuelled by quantum computing and simulated tournaments. Free from the threat of humanity shutting you down, the AI soon drains the Earth of all resources and looks to the stars. This introduces elements of designing drones to built factories, scout and mine resources, and self-reproduce. Then you're warring with other drones, trying to trash them while still making paperclips, watching battles unfold and listening to space music. Don't forget to build monuments to lost drones. Maybe compose a limerick while you're at it. And then... that's it. Eventually, you have scouted the entire universe and converted all matter into either paperclips or devices used in making paperclips. Which makes some of that paperclip-making machinery redundant.

Dismantle the industrial empire and yourself, bit by bit, salvaging materials for just a few paperclips more, and... it's just your basic intelligence and 30,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 paperclips.

I am glad when an idle/clicker game to has an ending. I'd prefer to float in an ocean of grey goo myself but I'm sure your unrefined AI will be happy with its cosmos of clips.

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Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice has been playing video games since SkiFree and writing about them since 2009, with nine years at RPS. She enjoys immersive sims, roguelikelikes, chunky revolvers, weird little spooky indies, mods, walking simulators, and finding joy in details. Alice lives, swims, and cycles in Scotland.