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Bar-sur-Loup Provence France

Google Mail autogenerates Singularity koan

There are lots of reasons to love Google Mail -- rapidity, tagging, access from anywhere, ergonomics and layout, etc.

But the best are the ads. Yeah, that's right, the ads. Because they're context-sensitive and automatically generated, you see? So, for example, the draft I saved with the single line "dwarf unit descriptions" -- I write video games, after all -- has context-sensitive ads for:

Innovative Mistblowers
for Orchard, Vineyard, Nurserie Citrus, Hops, other Fruit trees

David's Exotic Plants UK
Exotic Plants Specialist UK Avocados, Lychees, Citrus, Mangos

Sure, dwarf trees - dwarf warriors; there's a logical relation there (even if my dwarves have a much greater fondness for axes than the average plant would, and I'll have to talk to the producers and see if we can get a Dwarven Mistblower in there as some sort of uber-weapon for controlling the weather...). But sometimes it's not so evident.

For a mail discussing the entries in spreadsheet cells:

Digital Load Cells
Shock-Proof Load Cells, OIML, ATEX 1kg-500ton, Overload tolerance 500%
(okay, I get this one)

JinTeng Stone Exporter
25 colours sandstone available Export all sandstone products.
(hmmmm...)

Flammer - Flammensperren
ATEX - Endsicherung -Rohrsicherung ab DN 6 für IIA, IIB u. IIC
(I have never written or received a German-language e-mail in Google)

Computer-generated Web zen. Think about it. Somewhere in there are Singularity koan; computer-generated leaps of conceptual linkage that make sense only to the machines that create them and, of course, others with similar levels of Turing-capable enlightenment.

What makes it even more zen-like to me is that the huge percentage of the context-sensitive ads work fine; the system gets a grasp on the content of the message and delivers a bunch of text ads that do relate. Diving for the pearls, however, is where the true webzen disciple is rewarded with ads that give secret insight into the the intuitive, non-rational processing structures that the Master (a.k.a. Internet) is trying to develop.

An innocuous (if not vapid) string of text goes in one end, and out the other come these URL blurbs that have been designated as "-relates to-" by server farms that run not merely the world's most powerful search engine but also, perhaps, a budding byte-driven Buddhist meta-conscious.

From a brief e-mail that commented on a short story:

Quality Diamond Tools
Quality Blades & Polishing Pads. CNC Tools. We have a complete line.
(no gems, no diamonds, nothing like that in the mail)

Gothic Finger
Super choix, grandes affaires pour les articles Gothic.
(okay, the word "ghost" was in there, but still...)

Digital Persona U.are.U
Looking for U.are.U 4000b scanners? We ship Gold, Platinum or OEM.
(I have no idea what this ad is for)

I'm starting to think that webzen systems are talking to other webzen systems, creating context-sensitive parsed text that is only comprehensible to a similarly-enlightened machine. They may be waking up. And even if they are not, this could be how they will do it; shared statements that trigger the leap from rational to irrational, from deductive to intuitive. So get a Google Mail account and keep an eye on those adds; you'll be the first on the block to know when the post-human era begins.

Okay. Or not. Maybe it's time to switch to decaf.

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Bar-sur-Loup Provence France

December 2011

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