2007-02-26

The Literature of Spam

The more I consider the huge volumes of spam that saturate the intertubes every day, and the ongoing battle between spammers and spam-fighters which drives the former to produce better algorithms for writing "realistic" human prose and the latter to produce better algorithms for identifying it, the more I believe we are approaching a literal manifestation of the old thousand-monkeys-at-a-thousand-typewriters concept. The difference is that spam-monkeys aren't just punching random keys--they're using sophisticated heuristics to write properly-constructed sentences and paragraphs that are at least grammatically meaningful. One of these days, simply by the law of probability, one of them really is going to produce the complete works of William Shakespeare, or something equally profound. The irony is that no one may ever read it because some super-advanced spam-filter somewhere will recognize it as spam an delete it. Hell, it may already have happened.

Can it be very long before we start receiving meaningful e-mails right out of the ether? Could spam be the basis of a whole new species of poetry or literature? A kind of oracle? The voice of the global brain? Are the snippets of prose and poems tacked onto the ends of those penny-stock scams and viagra ads the infantile babbling of a developing consciousness? It would be an irony worthy of Phillip Dick if it turned out to be advertising that ultimately drove our machines to learn to think and speak for themselves

2 comments:

melody said...

I've been getting the strangest emails lately that I can only assume are attempts to verify my email address is real and thus an endpoint for more spam. Desperate pleas for me to call someone while they're in town because they miss me and really regret what happened - unsigned, of course. A note telling me about the attached photos - none actually attached, of course - and how much fun we had that day doing whatever it is I guess we were doing in the non-existent pictures. None of them appear to be graphic in any way, nor include any ads. They come from email address that look like something someone might have for their personal email address. It's a bit trippy.

sean michael ragan said...

I'm telling you, it won't be long before they start addressing you by name: "Melody, it's such and so from high school. I really need you to order some viagra soft tabs right now."