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December 1, 2006


Look at all that spam in my inbox. What a bunch of junk. Hey, now that looks interesting...


Announcement thingy: Welcome JeffR to the front page. One of our most consistent and imaginative commenters has been invited to become a regular contributor. Everybody say, "Hi, JeffR!"

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Jim: Lose Weight Now. Ask Me How.

As pale as her crisp hospital sheets, Louise slowly turned from the attending nurse and toward the detective.

“Okay, Ma’am,” the detective said. “Tell me what happened.”

“I usually ignore those spam ads,” Louise began. “They’re all rip-offs. But this one was different. Lose thirty pounds instantly, it said, at no charge until after the weight was lost!”

“Go on…”

“The next day, a man showed up at my door…with…with…” She began to cry uncontrollably.

The nurse took up the story. “Louise lost the weight but it cost her an arm and a leg.”

“With a chainsaw,” the detective noted.

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Stacy: AV is Your Friend

SUBJ: You oppen this mial!!

Like hell, I will…


What the… Why won’t this fucking thing delete??


NO, wait, I didn’t double click that. DAMMIT!

“Jenkins, how’s it going?”

“Well, Detective, this one’s impressive. We’ve got a body here, skinniest thing I’ve ever seen. He’s got a crank longer than my arm… pity he’s too dead to enjoy it. And downtown says his bank account is overflowing, large deposits from stock trading houses, and several million from Nigeria.”

The detective sighed. “Great, another victim of the ALL.SPAM virus. Be sure to tag those fake Rolexes, Jenkins.”

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Jeff R.: Turing Test

It started with Bayesian filters, analyzing word frequencies of e-mails to automatically determine if a mail was spam or legitimate. Of course, the spammers fought back, inserting word salad to dilute the keywords, fooling the filters.

So, the next-generation filters analyzed the words in a mail to determine if they formed sentences that made sense. The spammers made their own adjustments, making their sentences more like something a person would say, and increasingly complex genetic algorithms continued the arms race.

And that's why, in 2011, the first words spoken an artificially intelligent computer program were "Hey, wanna buy some Viagra?"

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David: So Much Doubt, So Little Benefit

“Help! I’m Being Held Prisoner In A Spam Factory!” Okay, that one’s pretty good. I’ll give it thirty seconds.


“Thank God you opened this! I’m risking my life trying to slip this in among the Viagra ads, penis enlargement offers, offshore porn sites Absolutely Free! Sign Up Now And Receive—

“Sorry, they were watching. I need help. Not for myself. It’s too late for me. For my daughter, in your country to escape this horror. She needs money. I can’t send it directly, or they will find her. Give me your bank account information, and I will deposit—“


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