The very basis of the spam wars is a search for better analysis of the way human beings think. Those on the defensive side seek to understand what we want to block by analyzing our choices, while the offense tries to find the ever more perfect mirror of what we will actually pause to look at. Each in its own way is trying find a model of human perception: spammers countered by filters countered by spammers, with no goal or destination in sight, only the ever-accelerating process itself.
And perhaps at the same time, by scooping up the tiny crumbs of our privacy that we leave on the Net every day, spam will eventually be a mass medium no more. The spam that arrives will be unique, directed to each individual, personalized and custom-fit. Spam programmers have found, for example, that professors at M.I.T. tend not to block e-mail poetry from their in-boxes, so some spam is now getting through in verse.
In my case, I'm still deeply enjoying the irony of anti-spam spam. As I thump away on my delete button each morning, I find myself pausing at the spam that says it will rid me of spam, and I often feel I'm being offered a glimpse into a kind of M. C. Escher print in which the iterations continue on forever into some golden braid of mist and meaning. And maybe that means the anti-spam spammers have got me figured out. They've learned how to make me look, and that's their goal.
Friday, 3 September 2004
Made you look!
In the New York Times, Kirk Johnson writes about the philosophy of spam