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People Keep Making Weird Useless Machines—Here Are Our Favorites

For the past couple of years, random internet dwellers have embarked on an ambitious quest to see just how useless a box can be in hopes of earning sweet, sweet internet points. Welcome to the world of useless machines.

On the surface, these machines are fun little contraptions that serve little-to-no practical purpose, e.g., flipping a user-activated switch back to the "off" position when turned on. Of course, this being the internet, useless machines have been used as political commentary and some "thinkers" have tumbled so far down the rabbit hole that they view them as an existentialist metaphor of our own humanity.

So are these just novelty devices, or are there really larger themes at play? Let's have a look at a few contenders and decide how our internet points should be distributed.

Contender #1

Here is your traditional useless machine. It has a single switch on the outside, with "on" and "off" positions. Flick the switch on, and an arm will spring forth from inside and toggle it back to the off position.

  • Machine uselessness: High
  • Existential crisis level: Low
  • Internet points: 3 meows

Contender #2

Here's a variation on the traditional useless box with a stuffed cat inside that performs the switching. It's still pretty useless, but it could entertain a real cat, so we'll have to dock it a couple of uselessness points. And while it's hard to say what a cat is ever thinking about philosophical ideas of self-worth, this device probably won't shatter a human's reality any time soon.

  • Machine uselessness: Medium-high
  • Existential crisis level: Low
  • Internet points: 10 meows (duh)

Contender #3

Alright, now we're getting somewhere. Here, two useless machines have been pitted against one another in an endless cycle of pushing a button in one direction, only for it to be pushed right back to where it started. The video's alternate title is even "Political Machines." This machine is still very useless, but begins to have a slight philosophical impact if you apply it to the right themes.

  • Machine uselessness: Medium-high
  • Existential crisis level: Medium-low
  • Internet points: 3 meows for each side

Contender #4

This machine actually serves a function, albeit a very specific one. It senses heat from a candle sitting atop the box, and the device springs forth to extinguish the flame. So this machine could come in handy if the world's worst arsonist attempts to burn your house down by leaving a tiny candle in the precise spot on this box. Compared to the rest of these machines, this is a pretty big step.

  • Machine uselessness: Medium, with a potential for none
  • Existential crisis level: Low
  • Internet points: 7 meows and a hiss

Contender #5

Here's another one that serves a narrow purpose, but might actually be somewhat useful depending on the circumstance. The box's lid remains open when there is nobody in close proximity to it, but snaps closed the second it senses danger, sort of like a clam. You could use it to play a joke on someone, or to tempt them with something precious. Just don't put anything too valuable in there unless your box is heavily fortified, so it doesn't get pried open and looted like a clam.

  • Machine uselessness: Low, with a potential for none
  • Existential crisis level: Low
  • Internet points: 8.7 meows

Contender #6

And now we've got the Mack Daddy of them all, the so-called "World's Most Useless Machine." Yeah, this thing sure is useless. It adds a bunch of bells and whistles to the uselessness, leaving you with a gizmo that is fun to watch but ultimately leaves you with nothing. Maybe there is something to this whole "useless machine as a metaphor for existence" idea. This machine dresses up its work in a host of interesting ways, but at the end of the day, it's just flipping a switch. And that's really all there is to it. Maybe we are all the World's Most Useless machine, and we don't even realize it.

  • Machine uselessness: High
  • Existential crisis level: Jaden Smith
  • Internet points: 9 meows

So, are these silly little gadgets a reflection of the menial nature of human existence? I'm gonna go with "probably not." But maybe you're convinced otherwise. If you are, let us know below in the comments section.

Cover image via Martin Raynsford

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