Why spam will revolutionize tech

Thursday, 26 August 2004, 9:25 AM EST

It is hard to find a good word to say for spam. Incoherent, unpleasant and unwanted, it slimes through cyberspace on the backs of zombies and oozes into our inbox with the stench of month-old haddock. Yet far from fatally clogging up our information arteries, spam may provide the impetus for a true revolution in information technology--one we've been expecting for more than fifty years.

All the problems caused by the stuff can be solved if we can answer one simple question: what is spam? You and I know within a second of opening a piece of e-mail whether it's spam or not--but computers are terribly bad at replicating the task. All spam-filters suffer from two problems, the false negative and the false positive. We can--we do--put up with the false negatives, the spam written cleverly enough to bypass whichever tests are flavor of the month.

By Rupert Goodwins at ZDNet.

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