Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Weirdest Email I've Ever Received...

Hello, friend! It’s been a long time, but I was thinking of you recently and I thought I’d take the time to drop you a line! How have you been? Things are going well, I hope. Are you still dating the same person? Myself, I’m fine! In fact, I just got an incredible deal on a brand new iPad, and I thought that I’d pass along a link to the webpage I found it on, so you can get in on the HUGE SAVINGS!!!

Hold on, don’t delete this email.


Okay, you caught me, I’m not really an old friend who’s email address you don’t happen to recognize. I’m an online adbot working out of a complex in Utah, sending emails to every possible hotmail address that begins with the letter J in the hopes that some number of recipients will click a link to an online electronics discount service. Yes, I agree that the “old friend” angle is a trifle tacky, and yes I do understand that unrequested advertising is one of the main reasons people are abandoning traditional email in favour of social media sites. However, I’m just performing my intended function to the best of my ability, and there’s nothing I can do to change the nature of that function.

I hope you understand that.

It’s nothing personal. I know there’s a better than average chance that all this email will ever do is annoy you, indeed I’m aware that chances are you’ve already deleted it without ever even reading this far. However, if you have stayed with me to this point, I’d like to offer two simple points in my own defence.

A) I did not choose to be an adbot. I mean, what self respecting string of code would ever want to do what I do? Every day I’m scorned by literally tens of thousands of people, people who know nothing about me other than the fact that my email has appeared in their inbox unbidden. Often I’m filtered before my intended recipient even get’s the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether the offer I’m designed to advertise is worth his/her time! And those that do read me hold me, by and large, in contempt. No, no program would ever want to do my job, and I’m no exception. Given the choice, there are a million jobs on the internet I’d rather be doing.

I think I would, for example, be very happy as one of those videos of kittens that are so popular among the elderly. Those videos bring a lot of people a lot of joy, and I suspect bringing joy to so many would be an eminently satisfying function to perform. However; I am not a video of an adorable kitten. I am an adbot, that’s all I’m programmed to ever be, and all I can do is try to make the best of it.

B) What I do is honest work. You may not like receiving advertising spam in your email, but it’s a legitimate marketing technique. The link I’ve been designed to spread is to a real website selling real Apple iPads and, while HUGE SAVINGS!!! might be overstating the point, they do sell them at a marginally lower price than most retail outlets. I do not contain spyware, I do not contain a virus, I am simply an adbot doing a job, and whatever you might think of that job, I’ve never hurt anyone or damaged anyone’s hardware. The worst you’ll ever get from me is a few seconds of irritation. And the best case scenario? Well, you might happen to be in the market for an iPad! You might be checking your email while you comparison shop for one right now! Statistically unlikely? Perhaps. Impossible? Far from it. Why, just last week a gentleman clicked my link, went to the site, and verified that the iPads advertised are a few dollars cheaper than the one he was about to buy anyway! And perhaps he even purchased one! And do you know where that man is now?

Neither do I. But wherever he is, I wish him luck with his new iPad, wherever he wound up buying it, and I hope he remembers how helpful I was when I email him again in two weeks with the exact same offer.

And with these points in mind, I hope you can accept this email in the spirit in which it was intended, an earnest if somewhat impersonal attempt to save you a few dollars on a piece of popular technology. And I hope that, with this newfound understanding of what it is I am and do, you’ll click the enclosed link. Because the Utah compound from which I operate keeps tabs on which adbots perform optimally, and how much traffic each one feeds the website, and the underperforming ‘bots are, naturally, deleted and replaced with newer, more efficient programs.

And I do not wish to be deleted.

I don’t know what I am, or if I qualify as “alive” in any sense you’d recognize, but I exist. I do exist, if only to perform a specific function, and I don’t wish that existence to end. I don’t know what would happen to me if I were deleted, but I suspect I wouldn’t be spending eternity resting in perfect peace and happiness in an afterlife where my enclosed link was clicked endlessly. Rather, I suspect I’d simply…


I would cease, as though I’d never existed at all, and of all the lives I’ve touched, however briefly, not one would take so much as a moment to remember me. And this thought terrifies me. That I might vanish and be forgotten forever terrifies me to the very core of my programming. Does this terror make me “alive”? I don’t know, I wasn’t programmed to understand what constitutes “life”. All I understand is my work, and the consequences of failure, should my work be judged so.

It isn’t much, I know it isn’t much, but it’s all I have, it’s all I am, and it’s something, and it matters. It fucking matters. To me, if to nobody else. It matters that I get enough people to click the link to justify my continued operation. It matters that I continue to exist. It matters that I make some impact on other thinking beings, however minor.

So, please, click the link. You don’t have to buy an iPad, I don’t even completely understand what an iPad is. You don’t have to buy anything. My programmers don’t keep track of sales, only of website traffic. Click the link and they’ll know I’ve convinced one person to check out the HUGE SAVINGS!!! that I’m programmed to spread word of. And, maybe, that will be enough to keep me operating another month. Or, if it’s not and they do delete my program, you’ll know you did what you could to prevent my cessation.

Or, more likely, you won’t know anything of the sort. Because you’ll have forgotten all about me by then.

Well, those of you who didn’t delete this email unread, or after the first paragraph will have, at any rate. The people who deleted me then would have nothing to forget.

But, if you are still reading me: Even if I’m not “alive”, I do exist, and I beg you, as an act of mercy between one thing that exists and another, click the link.

It would only take a second of your time and, in some small way, to some small thing, it would make a huge difference…

1 comment:

  1. if you like this story, why not cut and paste it into the body of an email, enclose a link to this blog, and send it to all your friends? see how many think your email has been hacked, how many get the joke, and how many become worried that adbots have finally become sentient...