Sterling and I, debating spam

Bruce Sterling and I have been having an email go-round about spam, the law, and spam-filtering. His latest Viridian note is a transcript of a speech he gave at the O'Reilly Open Source conference, in which he goes over some of the ground that we covered:

I had a long argument about this with Cory Doctorow.
He and I were really going at this hammer-and-tongs, over
the growing spam and virus crisis. And I thought that
there needed to be some kind of political and legal
solution. Like building a galvanized steel cage in Cuba
and throwing all the spammers and virus writers in there
as unlawful combatants who are clear and present deadly
enemies of humanity.

AUDIENCE: YAAAY!!! (Applause)

Whereas Cory is a techie, and he wants a techie
solution. So he's a fan of stuff like Vipul's Razor, and
he doesn't mind if the traffic on the Internet is 96%
fraud, malware and evil garbage as long as none of it gets
on his feet.

So, I let Cory convince me and I installed Mozilla on
my Mac. And its bug-track completely wrecked System 9. So
I stopped fighting with Cory Doctorow. Not because he was
winning the argument, but because his fucking Open Source
solution cost me three days of desperate effort to restore
my files! So I took the further trouble to install System
X, and I backed up everything of course, but I still don't
get it about System X quite frankly, and neither does
System X. It never knows what it's running. There are
chunks of Microsoft code in there like giant lumps of
black putty just *lying* to you about what they are doing
on the Internet. It's like trying to wade through drilling
mud running this thing. It steers itself by committee.

Udhay Shankar (who runs a great techie list called "Silk" that's mostly based in India) asked me if I wanted to followup on Bruce's talk on the list. It was after midnight, and I ended up with a touch of logorreah and rattled out a response to the list:

The koan that Frankston told me that led me to enlightenment was this:
"On the Internet, my right to swing my fist *doesn't* stop just short of
your nose, because it can only impact with your nose if you execute the
'punch yourself in the nose' suggestion. It's *your* responsibility to
figure out which suggestions you want to execute."

Or words to that effect.

When you see things this way, there is no malware, no spam.

Really. I mean, yes, in the real, present-day world, we don't get to
choose which suggestions we execute, but that's because we've got bad

But the software is getting better. My second relevatory experience was
installing Mozilla 1.0 and finding the "block images from this server"
context menuitem. The lid lifted off of my head and my brains did a
traditional folk-dance in celebration of the extreme cleverness of the
Moz hacker hivemind.