Not the meat product; I have no real opinions there. No, I’m talking about Internet junk mail. I hate it.
This isn’t a unique opinion. Does anyone actually like it? That’s rhetorical of course, because frankly the only sensible response to that question is “KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!”
Most of the time we all ignore it, because that’s the only way to deal with it. In that respect it’s like death asteroids from space, or the situation in North Korea. Today, however, it’s been getting in my face, and therefore I’m prepping my metaphorical flamethrower.
First of all, I wrote a post in honour of Johnny Cash’s birthday. Cash was a legend, he deserves respect. Sadly though, his name attracts accountancy spambots on Twitter. The man was a towering presence in music for decades, and now loan companies and accountants are using references to him to sell us stuff. I swear, if I ever go nuts and personally hunt down the spammers, I’ll be playing The Man Comes Around on my ipod as the police come for me.
Then I take a look at my blog statistics. Look, there’s a spike! Awesome! Have I been retweeted? Freshly Pressed? Has someone discovered the ineffable genius inherent in my writing?
No. No they have not. Some spambotting drones somehow linked to my site for their own nefarious purposes. I’m trying to think of a word to describe this that isn’t quite as pretentious as ‘parasitical’, but I can’t. I’m lost for words.
I probably deserve it, of course, because the whole situation is preying on my ego. Everyone who blogs wants readers – it’s not a pride thing, but it’s just nice to know that people appreciate what you write. So when you get a spike in hits, then realise that this is based purely on some marketing robot… Well, it’s frustrating.
Twitter followers are the worst. I think it’s because so much effort goes into trying to convince us they’re real people. However, they fail on the necessary Turing Test because they say exactly the same things as all the other spambots.
Back when nanotechnology was in its early stages, concerns were raised about the Grey Goo problem – the idea that self-replicating technology could go mad and eat everything. Experts say this scenario is unlikely to occur; I would argue it already has, just in a different medium. How much spam gets generated a day? The whole reason I’m blogging with WordPress and cross-posting to my original LiveJournal account is that the ratio of spam to real comments over at LJ ended up being something like 95%. And I know I should just ignore this as an inevitable part of Internet life, but…
But why should we?! If people push mountains of junk mail through our doors, there are things we can do about that. Same goes for telemarketing. With the internet, we all just sit here and take it. And it’s not quite as it used to be, when your email junk folder used to end up with a hundred messages a day, but it’s more insidious. The Grey Goo is developing a human face, and it’s looking at us and what we write and then sending us messages. It’s like that scene in The Abyss. And while the majority of spam seems to be coming from dodgy retail outlets and porn barons, it’s pretty much what massive corporations want to do – read us, target us, aggressively market to us, and as the internet becomes increasingly pervasive, on our phones and in our appliances and in our socks, this will get worse. Our fridges will be spamming us. And we’ll sit there and take us, as we put a bag of Swedish meatballs in the freezer and get twenty adverts for IKEA appearing the next time we turn on the TV. And probably another from IEKA, featuring a woman in her undercrackers looking to hook up for the weekend. Oh, brave new world. Google are developing augmented reality glasses. Just wait until you can’t even look at something without being spammed.
It’ll fundamentally rewrite how we relate to the world around us. One day we’ll all be wearing augmented reality contact lenses, and we’ll look at our friends and colleagues, and little tags will pop up based on the labels in their clothes, and we’ll all know how much they’ve been spending on personal grooming, and…
Okay, I’m going to stop, because I’ve gone from ‘annoyed’ to ‘despair’ via ‘rage’. But this is the sort of thing that fills me with a philosophical dread about the future – not the idea that technology will achieve sentience and blow us all up, but the idea that something as fundamentally life-altering and magnificent as the internet will become just a billboard with the ability to think, with some artificial lizard brain, about how to sell me stuff. I don’t want the greatest communication and information development of the last century to become a cheap and nasty flyer thrust at me by someone I can’t avoid. It just seems so… Crass.
And you know the irony?
This post is going to get spammed like crazy.