Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet Excerpt, Part 2

July 27, 2018

Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet
https://www.Amazon.com/Spam-Shadow-History-Internet-Infrastructures/dp/026252757X Fascinating discussion of #LitSpam: how the #spam arms race led to the development of Bayesian filters & then, in response, a bizarre mash-up of free literary texts meant to evade them

QT:{{”

“Let us return to Turing, briefly, and introduce the fascinating Imitation Game, before we leave litspam and the world of
robot-read/writable text. The idea of a quantifiable, machine-mediated method of describing quali- ties of human affect recurs in the literature of a variety of fields, including criminology, psychology, artificial intelligence, and computer science. Its applications often provide insight into the criteria by which different human states are determined—as described, for example, in Ken Alder’s fascinating work on polygraphs, or in the still understudied history of the “fruit machine,” ….is the so-called Turing Test. The goal of Turing’s 1950 thought experiment (which bears repeating, as it’s widely
misunderstood today) was to “replace the question [of ‘Can machines think?’] by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words.” Turing considered the question of machines “thinking” or not to be “too meaningless to deserve discussion,” and, quite brilliantly, turned the question around to whether people think—or rather how we can be convinced that other people think. This project took the form of a parlor game: A and B, a man and a woman, communicate with an “interrogator,” C, by some intermediary such as a messenger or a teleprinter. C knows the two only as “X” and “Y”; after communicating with them, C is to render a verdict as to which is male and which female. A is tasked with convincing C that he, A, is female and B is male; B’s task is the same. “We now ask the question,” Turing continues, “‘What will happen when a machine takes the part of A in this game?’ …

What litspam has produced, remarkably, is a kind of parodic imitation game in which one set of algorithms is constantly trying to convince the other of their acceptable degree of salience—of being of interest and value to the humans. As Charles Stross puts it, “We have one faction that is attempting to write software that can generate messages that can pass a Turing test, and another faction that is attempting to write software that can administer an ad hoc Turing test.” …

Surrealist automatic writing has its particular associative rhythm, and the Burroughsian Cut-Up depends strongly on the taste for jarring juxtapositions favored by its authors (an article from Life, a sequence from The Waste Land, one of Burroughs’s “routines” in which mandrills from Venus kill Eisenhower). Litspam text, along with early comment spam and the strange spam blogs described in the next section, is the expression of an entirely different intentionality without the connotative structure produced by a human writer. The results returned by a probabilistically manipulated search engine, or the poisoned Bayesian spew of bot-generated spam, …
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https://www.amazon.com/Spam-Shadow-History-Internet-Infrastructures/dp/026252757X

Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet [excerpt, Part 2]
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/spam-shadow-history-of-internet-excerpt-part-two/