Spam and the singularity

I just installed the Akismet spam plugin: previously I’d been adamant that a blog this little-read shouldn’t need to even acknowledge that spam was a problem, and had been manually deleting every comment. Naive; maybe even stubborn. But I’ve been proud of the fact I don’t get email spam, and I didn’t want to admit I suffered like everyone else.

So this was my first time going through the Akismet list, double-checking it was weeding things out correctly (and I’ll never do it again, so I’m sorry if your comment doesn’t ever show up). I’d never encountered so much spam in one place: the cumulative effect of it is very different to the way it seems when you’re just weeding a small number out each time. After a few screens, I realised that what I was watching was the gradual fall of language to a prelapsarian state when only our most basic needs and desires mattered, no fine words disguising the animal grunts that drive everything. And all this filth and depravity will from now on stay unseen, ignored, the only sign of it a tiny message on my WordPress dashboard (“Akismet stopped you facing up to 377 expressions of what humans really want”) and an ever-increasing load on the server where this lives.

Back in the wonderful days of the nineties, when transhumanists and believers in the singularity had columns in Wired and weren’t laughed at, there was a lot of talk about the machines achieving self-consciousness. I don’t remember anyone talking about what kind of subconscious they would have. Now I know: when the Net becomes a person, the hidden things that give it bad dreams will be made from the billions of three-word advertisements for the filthiest human pornography. We’re building the machines’ superego, one WordPress plugin at a time.

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