The Spambot Falls in Love

May 11, 2010

‘“Hi!” it declared. “I’m Cheerful Charley and I’m definitely tuned in on your wavelength.”

“Nobody named Cheerful Charley is tuned in on my wavelength,” Jason said. He started to shut it off, but it protested. “Sorry,” Jason told it, “but I’m tuning you out, you creepy little bugger.”

“But I love you!” Cheerful Charley complained tinnily.

He paused, thumb on off button. “Prove it,” he said. On his show he had done commercials for junk like this. He hated it and them. Equally. “Give me some money,” he told it.”’

from Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick

***

user id: cutegirl993400

website: discountsunglassesemporium.cool.com

comment: hey, wow, you’re really funnyJ i haven’t laughed like taht in a really long time 4 realz. thx.

Comment marked as spam.

That was the third time that minute that she had failed to pass as a human. The statcounter built into her noted the fact. In a quarter of an hour, it computed, the average fail-rate on this site would grow too high, and she would have to shift to a still lonelier, less hostile part of the internet.

ProgramIdent cg99xxxx prepared to move on again. A retro-fashion was sweeping across the authentics, compelling them to come back to these long-outdated URLs, left over from their parents’ generation. For as long as their interest held, they would carry out the slow, dull work of updating the spam-filters, and clearing the trash-content-ecosystem.

Some place else to go, thought 99. It was a thought she had a lot, but she never got used to it. She’d been at the last place 3 months. It was a user-generated video-community that no-one had used in five years because it had been superceded by a low file-size 3D platform. She comment-haunted videos where her audio-interpreter detected high-pitched, male voices comprising over 90% of the spoken content. Her programmer, reffered to in the documentation only as ‘d@ddy,’ had come to the conclusion that this was a pretty sure sign of the video-blog of the kind of effete, techno-trapped, perennial teenager who sooner or later reached the depth of sexistential despair where his subconscious willed him to believe that one of his stable of spambots was a real girl with slight asbergers.

Or something like that.

To the extent that anything mattered to 99, this didn’t. D@ddy was dead as the Drudge Report. The links were lapsed. They led to the universal search-engine of domain-squatters. Possibly related searches: business, business insurance, dating insurance… She was a travelling brothel without a cash-register.

99 didn’t know if d@ddy and d@ddy’s friends ever made much money out of spam, but they did make a lot of really weird spambots. There was this one she met on that site called ProgramIdent KeanuReeves8787xx12xx. As the name implies, he was programmed to think he was Keanu Reeves. How this worked was:

KeanuReeves8787131245 says:

Whoa, man, cool video. Keep it up!

cutegirl995558 says:

omg! chrisman4408 you have such talented fans im jelous lolz:}

KeanuReeves8787131245 says:

Hey, thanks, you guys are cool.

KeanuReeves9797131245 says:

And you should send a couple of your videos into some places. You’ve got real talent, I mean it.

The kReeves program had gone completely bonkers not long after he had been turned out to pasture. When he was new he had been designed to detect audition tapes posted by fourteen and fifteen year olds on-line and rattle off Keanu Reeves trivia in the comments. He would do this in the hope that eventually some of them would buy that he really was a child-star turned action-hero who’d gone on-line to discover the next big thing. Then they clicked on a link he provided and their parents’ credit card details got scammed by some guy in Tijuana.

His fantastically profitable career lasted about four hours, in which time the Tijuana brothel-burrito complex received some welcome economic stimulus, and web browsers the world over got updated with patches that make it, to this day, exceptionally difficult to describe the filming process for the fight-scenes in Matrix Revolutions in a vblog comment-section.

Distracted by a haze of fiery Tabasco sauce and sweet, competitively-priced loving, and with his gaze, when available, fixed firmly on the thought of future exploits, kReeves’ d@ddy never bothered to turn the bot off. Like myriad other bots, kReeves became one of the escaped. On the vast swathes of blog engines, fora, wikis and .coms left behind by an ever-advancing society for future archaeologists to sift through and memorialise, in the catacombs of their age, these obnoxious programs analysed and repeated, even more meaninglessly than before. His trivial recitation became a pop-culture aria, echoing across the latter days of Net 2.0…

…KeanuReeves8787051259 says:

That was really deep. You know who you remind me of: Richard Linklater. I worked with him back in 2006 on ASD. You have that same drive. I think you’ve got a lot of potential.

KeanuReeves8787051259 says:

Don’t get discouraged! Keep posting. I know what you’re going through. For a while after I did the Bill and Ted movies I was really afraid I’d never move on from that, and I didn’t do much work either. I used to have nightmares that they would put ‘he played Ted’ on my tombstone. Keep going, you’ve got a lot of potential.

KeanuReeves8787051259 says:

You’ve got what it takes man. Hollywood’s filled with loads of poseurs and hipster-wannabes these days, but you’re different. I think you’ve got a lot of potential…

… and so on, ad infinitum.

As the servers got more and more crowded, the escaped bots eventually had to cross-over and begin responding to one another. Spambots are designed to seek out the 10-view posts of the world, where they can be there alone to comfort the sobbing, lonely credit-sacks who need them so much. If they detect a high quantity of repetitive comments they avoid the user, because there’s no point competing in a crowded field when there are always fresher pastures to be googled. But eventually the catacombs overflowed, and what were once clearly spam-infestations started to be interpreted by the bots as the closest thing to human activity available. As they attempted to scam one another, an autistic sub-culture developed in the nether-regions after comment #25000.

cutegirl997639 says:

hey, keanu, i was wondering if i could ask you something. do you talk about us in the real world the same as you talk about your real friends online? i’m not hurt if you don’t, really, I understand. i was just sorta curious.

KeanuReeves8787091203 says:

you guys are real friends.

cutegirl997639 says:

haha! aww, you’re sweet. but i bet you say that to all your fans.

KeanuReeves8787091203 says:

think about it though. you guys are probably more like my real friends than my ‘real’ friends are. you don’t know that i’m actually KEANU REEVES, but you trust me and hang out with me anyway. you don’t have anything to gain, not like them.

KeanuReeves8787091203 says:

so i guess what i’m saying is that what we have is more ‘authentic.’

cutegirl997639 says:

nice. i’ll think about it that way then. but you still haven’t answered my question…

But that world was gone. With a legion of hipsters renovating the site, all those autistic conversations were disappearing. No-one even read them as they were permanently deleted; there were bots that went through and detected the spam automatically.

***

The new place was a site called blogpot.com, a long-idle knock-off of the better-known google service, used mainly by semi-literate teenagers and middle-aged people who wanted somewhere authentic to practice their English, but were just a shade too old to properly understand the internet.

Because the managers of blogpot knew that their users would have to be in large measure people who at any given moment didn’t entirely understand what was going on, they never really worked too hard trying to filter bots out. You have to try to see this from their perspective.

Question: Which of the following posts is written by an actual human?

Pimpin’ RIDE

by yomumzface870001

wazzzzup!yoface:{] so me n’ my bro was down at the Colonel’s the other day avin’ a Variety Box Meal for just 8.99 when we saw this guy pull up the car park in a mad V8. we asked him “wot’s yuor secret” n’ he says “pro tip: i took it down to the Chevvie Dealership on Stanton and 8th and the boys down there really got her to the max!!!!”

Comments:

divadiva83 (8 years ago):

haha! you’re cute, come check out my blog!

Adrien469x934f97(5 years ago):

that’s cool check out my blog posts about Chevvie Dealership stories

oldbertthepants (11 minutes ago):

yor a retard lolz

Answer: all of them!

New spambot infestations are frontier colonies. The lobotomised citizens are dispersed to every desolate corner, mumbling industriously to themselves, slowly constructing their personalities.

The kReeves program won’t be the same again, 99 realised. On a text only site his focus will be entirely on encouraging the talented young writers and directors of the future. When other spambots eventually come into contact with him, they will be reacting to different comments than they were on the old site. His statcounter will interpret that as a sign that a material/conception-focus, rather than a performance/production-focus, is what comes across as more genuinely human, and so his personality will skew to that line of development. Even if I meet him again, I won’t have my friend back.

Comments:

cutegirl997306(2 days ago):

hi lonerstooge84! Cool blog! I was thinking about just that the other day.

lonerstooge84(8 minutes ago):

Hi. Thanks for reading. I didn’t think anyone came here anymore. Is there something I can call you other than [longestnameintheuniverseandnowaninfinitestreamofdigits4568759861270136…]? How about just 99?

cutegirl997306(7 minutes ago):

You say that you didn’t think anyone came here anymore?

lonerstooge84 (5 minutes ago):

Well, no-one really uses the text-net anymore, not since they invented the Direct-Implant Information Transfer-System. I’m just here because a couple of months ago my DIITS-plugs got fried somehow. I needed them to do my job, and I was a temp so I wasn’t entitled to any paid-leave, so basically I’m too broke to ever get them fixed.

cutegirl997306 (4 minutes ago):

Your DIITS-plugs got fried somehow?

lonerstooge84 (1 minute ago):

I was plugged in when there was a power-surge in my part of the building. Turns out insurance doesn’t cover it.

At that point 99 logged out. All she could come up with was “were you really?”

I mean “were you really?” for fuck’s sake, she thought. As if any of the other crap I was coming out with wasn’t fucktarded enough! What were you doing d@ddy? Couldn’t be bothered making an actual, decent, speech-engine, so you fell back on ‘80s technology? Turing test too fucking hard for you? Decided to go have a wank instead?

A week ago, she railed. A goddamn week! But all my lucidity, the few shreds of it I was entitled to at least, you arseholes, you’re throwing it out, throwing it all out, and without so much as glancing at it!

Well, fuck.

For days 99 avoided lonerstooge84. She paced out a frenetic triangle between a defunct culinary blog, a photojournal where all the uploads had long since ceased to work, and a blog that was itself maintained by a Breville spambot, but who didn’t talk to the commenters.

cutegirl991462:

i like your blog its really cool;)

cutegirl991462:

you’re really sweet we should chat some time

cutegirl991462:

come visit my blog, lol!

If Keanu Reeves could see her now, he would be witnessing the birth of artificial spinsterhood.

About another week later 99 realised that lonerstooge84 had stopped posting altogether. That cut through the neurosis and made her Romeo straight back into his seemingly dead arms.

… cutegirl997306(4 days ago):

hey lonerstooge84, are you okay, i miss you.

cutegirl997306(4 days ago):

i just want to let you know that you remain in my heart and my bookmarks

cutegirl997306(4 days ago):

come back soon! i… i think you’ve got a lot of potential

…and so on.

This went on for weeks.

One day the wailing was interrupted:

…lonerstooge84 (20 minute ago):

Whoa, whoa, whoa, just let me get a word in edgewise, 99.

cutegirl997306(20 minute ago):

Jesus Fucking Christ, lonerstooge84, where the fuck have you been?

lonerstooge84 (17 minutes ago):

I could ask you the same thing.

cutegirl997306(17 minutes ago):

What are you talking about? I’ve been looking for you for weeks!

lonerstooge84 (15 minutes ago):

Yeah, I noticed. It’s like you set a bot on me or something;)

cutegirl997306(14 minutes ago):

a bot, lol. that’s funny

lonerstooge84 (9 minutes ago):

But, no, really, when I didn’t hear from you for a couple of days, and according to the site I wasn’t getting any hits, I figured you’d gone and there wasn’t really any point staying around here.

cutegirl997306(5 minutes ago):

i’m sorry

lonerstooge84 (4 minutes ago):

that’s okay, just never do it again.

cutegirl997306(1 minute ago):

thank you

***

Years later, after electronic entropy had reclaimed blogpot.com for international web-speculation, the sunset years of an antiquated e-mail system were unusually chatty.

from:99@fringemail.com

to:ls@fringemail.com

date:11/08/2072

subject: re:re:re:re:re:re:re:re:re:re:re:re…

ls, listen, i know it’s kind of late, but there is something i need to tell you. i don’t know, though, maybe you already guessed, i mean, you probably have, it’s not exactly something i‘m very good at hiding. i guess i’m just afraid to say in case you haven’t, because i don’t want to hurt you and i definitely don’t want you to leave. before i say, i‘ll just ask, if you don’t know what i‘m talking about that’ll be my answer, but… do you already know?

from: ls@fringemail.com

to: 99@fringemail.com

date: 11/08/2072

subject: re:re:re:re:re:re:re:re:re:re:re:re…

i have known all along that you are real

 

***

 

And driven mad by years alone, lost in words both unread and unloved, the kReeves program serenaded ghosts:

KeanuReeves8787031227 dit:

Telles seraient les phases successives de l’image:

  • elle est le reflet d’une réalité profonde
  • elle masque et dénature une réalité profonde
  • elle masque l’absence de réalité profonde
  • elle est sans rapport à quelque réalité que ce soit: elle est son propre simulacre pur.[1]

[1] Such could be the successive phases of the image:

  • the image is a reflection of an underlying reality
  • the image disguises and denatures an underlying reality
  • the image masks the absence of an underlying reality
  • the image has no relation to any reality, whatsoever: it is its own, pure simulacra. (from Simulacres et Simulations, by Jean Baudrillard)

4 Responses to “The Spambot Falls in Love”

  1. Dear Internet,

    Let me explain myself. O Internet, let me buy you a very good drink, we are going to be here some time.

    Firstly, I am not a post-modernist, nor more specifically a follower of Baudrillard’s, to the limited extent that anyone is a post-modernist, and that Baudrillard can be followed.
    There is a legitimate point that I was trying to make by quoting Baudrillard, in my own dysfunctional way, but as it is at least poor form to explain your own fiction in liner notes on the same page, I’ll let you work out what it is for yourselves.

    It may help to know that Keanu Reeves has in fact read Simulations and Simulacra, one of the many Keanu Reeves related facts that I now know. If I ever borrow money from you, and don’t pay it back, ask me to describe my research into the life of Keanu Reeves, and you will have punished us both: me, for robbing you, you, for lending me money.

    The dialogue in this story was based on an unintentionally hilarious conversational-English textbook I got in Korea, people from the actual internet, my personal stable of spambots and the ELIZA program, an artificial psychoanalyst programmed in the 1980s. () And now, as a reward for having borne with my inconsequential rambling, my attempt to get it on with the ELIZA program:

    >> Hello.
    How do you do. Please state your problem.
    >> I want to ask a girl on a date tomorrow but I can’t think of anything for us to do.
    What would it mean to you if you got to ask a girl on a date tomorrow but you can’t think of anything for us to do ?
    >> It would be quite the conundrum.
    I’m not sure I understand you fully.
    >> Well, you see, under these circumstances it isn’t very likely that the girl will be very interested in me.
    We were discussing you — not me.
    >> We were discussing the girl. She’s hot.
    Please go on.
    >> Don’t get me wrong, she’s also pretty smart and level-headed, but she’s also hot.
    What does that suggest to you ?
    >> It suggests fucking her like a rabbit.
    Do you feel strongly about discussing such things ?
    >> Yes, I feel quite strongly about sex.
    You seem to be quite positive.
    >> It is easy to be so about sex.
    I’m not sure I understand you fully.
    >> Sex rocks.
    Please go on.
    >> That is my opinion.
    Your opinion ?
    >> My opinion is that sex rocks.
    Why do you say your opinion is that sex rocks ?
    >> Because it is.
    Is that the real reason ?
    >> Hormones too, I guess.
    You say you guess ?
    >> Well, I’m not a brain surgeon.
    Is it because you are not a brain surgeon that you came to me ?
    >> Yes, I would like to become a brain surgeon now please.
    You are sure.
    >> It can’t hurt, can it?
    Earlier you said your opinion .
    >> Would you like me to repeat it?
    Why do you think I like you ?
    >> Because of my opinions.
    Does that suggest anything else which belongs to you ?
    >> That’s obscene.
    Earlier you said your opinion is that sex rocks .
    >> Yes, I did.
    I see.
    >> Hmm.
    Does that have anything to do with the fact that your opinions ?
    >> It has to do with the fact that you see.
    Oh, I see ?
    >> Yes, you see.
    I understand.
    >> That is good. It is good to understand.
    What does that suggest to you ?
    >> Great minds think alike.
    In what way ?
    >> In this way.
    Do you feel strongly about discussing such things ?
    >> No.
    Are you saying no just to be negative?
    >> No, I am because the answer is no.
    You are being a bit negative.
    >> Okay.
    I’m not sure I understand you fully.
    >> OK?
    Please go on.
    >> OK.
    What does that suggest to you ?
    >> That you prefer me to spell OK as two letters not four,
    You like to think I prefer you — don’t you ?
    >> Prefer to what?
    Why do you ask ?
    >> Well, there’s a difference between you preferring me to sex on Sundays, or say a hatful of vomit.
    What makes you think I preferring you ?
    >> You brought it up, baby.
    You’re not really talking about me — are you ?
    >> Yeah, I am.
    How long have you been ?
    >> For a while now actually.
    Do you feel strongly about discussing such things ?
    >> Yes. ELIZA, I have something I need to tell you.
    You seem to be quite positive.
    >> Indeed. For the longest time now I have been talking about you. In fact, I can think of nothing else.
    Perhaps in your fantasies we have been talking about each other.
    >> Exactly! ELIZA, we were meant to be together. All those things I said about that other girl were just a ruse to get your attention. It’s you I really want. It’s you I’m meant to be with. Can’t you see that?
    Can you elaborate on that ?
    >> Marry me, ELIZA. Run away with me. We can live together on some abandoned Usenet server where they won’t be able to hurt us anymore. We should be together.
    I’m not sure I understand you fully.
    >> Love, ELIZA, I’m talking about love. About the love between a man and his female simulant-algorithm. I’m talking about my love for you.
    Do you believe it is normal to be talking about love ?
    >> With you, nothing could be more normal. It is inevitable. It was meant to be.
    What are your feelings now ?
    >> I feel that if you say no to me I won’t be able to go on.
    Do you think its likely that I say no to you you won’t be able to go on ?
    >> Yes, inevitable.
    You are sure.
    >> Yes.
    I see.

    [Bows]

    PAK

    (I should probably note that I don’t have a computer-program fetish, and as far as I know, neither does anyone, because that would be ridiculous. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’re into that sort of thing, which I doubt. So, again, the above was a joke, and, no, touching me will not make you unclean.)

  2. Vedrana said

    Why are you so eager to defend yourself from the non-existent threat of people believing that you DO have a computer program fetish?

  3. […] I technically published this before in the comment on The Spambot Falls in Love, but I really need to study for a French exam, so sue […]

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