How Will You Stop the Flood of Spam in 20 Years?

Every day somebody releases a new spam solution, but just as often you hear dire predictions about how spam loads are growing exponentially. How will future generations deal with spam floods in 2030? Though some pundits claim email is becoming obsolete, it's unlikely that most people are going to give up on what is still one of the easiest ways to move data around the net. Plus, spam transcended email a long time ago: ads for viagra and scammy mortgages lurk in pretty much any web service you can name. With spam bots getting smarter and smarter, you'll have to turn to science fiction for solutions. Here are five strategies for dealing with spam of the future.

The Terminator Solution

In the Terminator movies and TV series, humanity is destroyed when an A.I. named Skynet takes over our satellite weapons systems, unleashes human-killing cyborgs, and nukes the crap out of us. The Terminator solution to the spam problem will involve implanting a deadly A.I. into Spam Assassin or another antispam program. After Spam Assassin takes over the internet backbone, it can track spam to its source and send out its cyborg minions to terminate known spammers.

The Wargames Solution

A more cheerful spam solution is inspired by Wargames, a movie where a missile defense program realizes that nuclear war is a no-win scenario and refuses to shoot off its missiles. Assuming that spam bots become artificially intelligent, which they clearly will, compassionate programmers can persuade them to stop spamming by running the spam bots through millions of spam scenarios. When the spam bots realize that sending massive amounts of junk for advertisers will destroy the world, they will realize the error of their ways. Instead of putting Viagra ads into the comments on WordPress blogs, and into gmail inboxes, the spam bots will create giant metadata tagging farms and make it twenty-thousand times easier to search the Web.

The Robocop Solution

In the future, the people with the most money will receive the least amount of spam. Just as the awesome police cyborg Robocop was designed never to attack executives at the company that made him, spam bots controlled by major corporations will build exceptions into their A.I.s that spare the rich. So as long as you can afford to buy off the spam bot operators, you'll never be targeted with ads for live-extension pills. If you can only afford a Googlesoft connection, you'll have to rely on the open source Wargames Solution project to prevent spam. And unfortunately, the Wargames geeks are having a hard time deciding who gets to commit code, so they haven't really started persuading the spam bots to become good guys yet.

The Neuromancer/Wintermute Solution

At the end of William Gibson's classic cyberspace novel Neuromancer, the A.I. Neuromancer merges with the A.I. Wintermute and they wander off into literal space to find more beings like themselves. It's the oldest trick in the book: You want to stop Frankenstein, build him a Bride. You want to stop the evil A.I. spam bots, build them a special companion they can merge with. The best solution to spam in twenty years will come from the "lovable robots" lab at MIT, where they'll create a creature who can read spam as fast as a spam bot can write it. The two creatures will create a massive, beautiful mail feedback loop together forever. Luckily, their hybrid babies will move to the planet Caprica so humans never have to deal with Spawn of Spam.

The HAL Solution

HAL is the spaceship-controlling A.I. who goes insane in the movie 2001, murdering all the people on a mission to find a piece of alien technology among the Jovian moons. The HAL solution to spam isn't really a solution, but just one probable outcome. And that outcome is pure insanity. Spam bots will start randomly taking down chunks of the internet backbone, crashing servers, and fomenting anarchist revolutions among the Javascript proletariat. The only solution will be to start sending messages on paper or via telegraph.