21 June, 2007

Dr. Evil's spam

Email spam is ubiquitous these days, and its 'superfluidity' may give it an additional application besides selling stuff to people and hijacking their data and/or machine time.

If you read any detective stories about international assassins, spies and whatnot - and these are the only type of detective stories worth reading - you've definitely noticed how convoluted are the schemes for contacting the guy who spends most of his time in hiding. Every third Saturday of the month come to Piazza del Popolo in Rome, holding 3 red roses and a copy of Sacramento Bee dated exactly 10 days earlier. Now the guy who needs to be contacted has to wander around the square, looking for someone with Sacramento Bee. Thankfully, international assassins have to have sharp eyes, so he will be able to read the issue date, but still... what if Sacramento Bee goes bankrupt?

Or consider the "moles" -- the guys who work quietly in the heart of the enemy's government for years and even decades, only passing the most valuable information or acting in the most critical moments.

How to communicate effectively with these people? Email would be nice, but a permanent email address can be monitored and again, what if you loose the access to it? Thankfully to the cloak-and-dagger people, they don't have to rely on a constant email address. Instead, what they can do is set up an email address -- at any free service, for example -- and just leave it at a few message boards. Then, their handlers call one of those companies who offer "mass mail services" and send the message out to their guy and to the whole world.

Sure, everyone will receive the secret message, but who's going to know if it is a secret message? Do you have a habit of counting spaces at the ends of the lines in Ci41is ads? :p

14 June, 2007

Fighting hypocrisy at its source.

Have you ever been wondering where hypocrisy comes from? Children are always honest up to a certain age, always speaking what's on their clean minds. Only when they grow up, they start to lie, pretend to care about things they don't, distort information to their benefit -- you know, what adults do.

Clearly, something teaches children that and, since lying is a very basic -- unfortunately -- human behavior, something very basic should be at its source. Something as basic as the language.

Think about it. Every time you ask someone, "How are you?", do you really care about the other person's business? Probably not, in most cases. The phrase has become a single meaningless token, just like "Hi" but, unlike "Hi", still retains a literary meaning. Which is not a problem for an adult acquiring a language, since this type of hypocritical constructions are present in most languages, so the grown up person just makes a mental note that "'How are you' is just how we say [...], literary meaning is not assumed".

Now, when a child learns his native language, he takes everything at its face value since he doesn't know any other languages for comparison. Therefore, when he sees people asking each other how they are, he first thinks to himself, "Wow, what an empathic world I'm living in!" But then he notices that, in most cases, people really don't mean that, thus receiving his first and most important lesson of hypocrisy.

Other aggravated lessons will come soon, but this experience with a very basic thing, a greeting -- the first thing people say to each other and already a lie -- must be the most important of them all. So if we could just get rid of the lies in the basic language constructions the perhaps our children will see that lying isn't a basic behavior, but rather a rare, reproached occurrence. And that should definitely make our world a little better.