Spambots often come in waves. Most of them are caught by my spam filter (typically hundreds a day). But a few always get by and show up in the regular comments section. I delete them, but every now and then one amuses me and I feature it in a “spambot of the day” post. And sometimes there are a whole bunch that get by at once, usually from the same source (which, like most bots, is advertising another website, usually pushing a product or service).
That’s what happened earlier today. The product being promoted was a particular type of cellphone which shall remain nameless. But the strange thing was that, instead of the usual mindless spam, sometimes tangentially related but more often unrelated to the subject matter of the post on which it’s dumped, these were much more finely targeted and written in a way that made them sound more like real comments.
Example: on a thread entitled “The Periodic Table” (and here it is; it’s about, yes, the periodic table), I found the following. Unfinished, yet pertinent and all-too-human-sounding:
I can relate to your feelings about the periodic table, both in junior high science and beyond, but I can go further than that. As a kid growing up, we had various old games in the basement.
Well, I wish the bot had gone further than that, because I’d love to hear about those old games in the basement.
The very same bot (different names, but the same website was being advertised) made three comments on a post of mine entitled “Ah, Brave New World,” in which I’d linked to this article about a woman who wrote a book discussing the future of reproduction without sex. Here are the bot’s three comments, all posted under different but related names:
You listening, Lord? I’m ready to turn Amish now.
In fact, I think I’d prefer it to the world this woman envisions.
Talk about narcissism gone beserk! Thank you, thank you God I’m not a child of these people.
So, here’s my question: did the bot read the post and compose those rather on point comments (with a bit of humor thrown in, too) to fit it? Is the bot therefore an actual person? Or has the program automatically generating these things become that sophisticated?
Ah, Brave New World indeed!
[UPDATE: I just found some more, same source, but they came in earlier today. This one was on a post of mine titled "Netflix thinks," and it mentions the film "Fiddler on the Roof." The bot had this to say (and I am not making this up, believe me):
Speaking of Zero Mostel, we just threw out a toilet seat he had autographed. It said “Zero Mostel shat here” and had a cartoon sketch of himself. He “created” it when he played my father-in-law’s tent theater, loafing through Tevye, and still bringing the house down.
Next up, same bot on same post:
The sort of statistical data mining used by Netflix, Amazon, and other online merchants is a rather inexact science, but they keep using it because it does work a lot of the time. Of course, it’s only as good as the data sets that they are working with
My guess is that whoever is generating this particular bot has it down to a more exact science.]