My spam filter has a mind of its own which would be concerning under any circumstances but, for reasons best known to itself, has started moving directly into “trash” some of the most relevant and important emails I receive.
My favourite substacks, messages from clients about appointment details, and confirmations of orders I’ve placed that I needn’t have embarrassed myself grumpily chasing up are all lurking in there sniggering at me from a position of secrecy.
Relentless advertisements for Viagra, ways to achieve “a flat belly in ten days”, and countless people with ordinary names assuring me they can “increase the traffic” to my website all sail through with the spam filter’s blessing.
Like Michael Fish’s erroneous assurance that there would be no hurricane in 1987, you had one job spam filter and you couldn’t pull it off.
This is just one of any number of ways in which control over my life is being wrested from me by technology.
Even the TV laughs at me as it records programmes that I have never and would never watch.
“24 Hours in A&E” anyone? Not for me, a man who literally fainted on his own doorstep during an episode of “Cracker” in which they were merely talking about a stabbing.
At the root of my ire is probably my own shame at having no clue how to adjust or prevent the machines from taking control.
I am now living in a voluntary dystopia but it didn’t used to be like this.
In my previous corporate life, I set rules in my email programme so that everything on which I was “CC’d” was sent into another folder, one that I never checked.
I assumed that there would eventually be some catastrophic consequence related to my negligence but there wasn’t and I basked in the glory of doing away with all but a fraction of unwelcome reading matter.
But now, either things have become more complex, I have become less capable, or both.
Why won’t the algorithm support me instead of mocking my inadequacy?
Instead of, “People who bought this also bought this,” couldn’t we have, “People who bought this almost certainly wouldn’t enjoy this,”? Then at least I could dive straight on into the things I definitely wouldn’t like in order to find the stuff that I really want.
It seems though I am not alone in craving the familiarity, control, and slower pace of the past if the accelerating return of vinyl records is any measure.
There is also more interest in losing oneself in a book than there has been for years, perhaps a rare upside of covid lockdowns, and people are increasingly turning to podcasts in order to establish intimate and personal relationships with their hosts (especially when enjoyed through headphones).
Maybe that’s the answer, that I should stop worrying so much about the inevitable loss of control and the self-determination of technology and instead turn my head back towards the analogue, to interests in which I am both central and integral in order to mitigate the unstoppable rise of automation.
While I’ve been writing this it’s come to my attention that I have missed a difficult-to-schedule dental appointment. They did send me a reminder which I have now located in my spam folder between a mail about how I could achieve guaranteed returns on a crypto investment and one offering corporate hospitality days clay pigeon shooting.