Re: Junk mail and rotting web (SPAM)

Michael Lorrey (
Wed, 03 Feb 1999 20:23:10 -0500

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

> I cannot see any possible benefit of legislating netiquette that
> outweighs the near-certain disaster. Information must flow freely or it
> will not flow at all. That includes spam, and adult sites, and abortion
> death threats, and child pornography, because outlawing these things
> would accomplish nothing; no more than outlawing drugs has decreased the
> number of drug users, or outlawing encryption will prevent terrorists
> from typing in the source code from "Applied Cryptography".
> What it would accomplish is to increase transaction costs and prevent
> information from flowing freely. It would have the same effect as a tax
> on downloading Web pages. It would make every ISP liable for not
> keeping up in the technological arms race that is certain to begin.
> If spam technology becomes a serious annoyance, users will result to
> serious filter technology to keep it out. Legislation would be futile
> and ineffective, except in the "effect" of creating laws or transaction
> costs that would cripple legal technological advancement.
> This is a classic case of Yudkowsky's Third Threat:
> "Attempting to suppress a technology only inflicts more damage."
> --

There is a big difference between supressing technology and making technology pay for its externalizations. Spam is specifically designed to be almost total externalized cost, which is why it is such a threat. Using legal mechanisms or market pressure to make technologies pay their externalized costs will not supress the rate of technological advancement in the long term (i.e. more than a few years), since the bandwidth waste that spam causes is as bad as smog, toxic waste, or other types of pollution. They are evidence of a technology which wastes resources, is inefficient. Maximizing technological growth depends on minimizing the utility costs of productive work in an economic system. Spam is none of these.--

Michael Lorrey
MikeySoft: Graphic Design/Animation/Publishing/Engineering

How many fnords did you see before breakfast today?