The origins of the message chains: if you don't copy this article, you will die

Who has not received an email similar to this one, raise your hand: "Copy and paste this message to ten of your contacts or you will suffer ten years of bad luck." This type of spam It is ubiquitous and, to some extent, load-bearing (although it constitutes an excellent Darwinian tool to separate skeptical people from the magufa).

However, despite the fact that the message chains might seem to be a side effect of the price of these messages (almost zero) and the effort and time involved in forwarding them (a click, one second), the message chains their roots sink in times when email had not been invented.

If we start from the basis that a message chain aims at replication, regardless of its content, then we have to go back, at least, to the year 1902. It is the date proposed Daniel W. VanArsdale, an expert in the evolution of message chains, who found the following message dated that year: “Make seven copies of this exactly as it is written”.

James Gleickin his book Information, abounds in the propagation of message chains:

The message chains expanded with the help of a new technology of the nineteenth century: carbon paper, placed between two blank sheets of paper. Later carbon paper established a symbiotic relationship with another technology, the typewriter. Various viral outbreaks of message chains occurred during the first decades of the 20th century. (…) When its use was disseminated, two other subsequent technologies led to an increase in orders of magnitude in the fecundity of message chains: the photocopying machine (1950) and email (1995).

The fashion of message chains reached such a degree of hysteria in the United States between 1935 and 1936, that even the State Department of Posts, as well as various public opinion agencies, He was forced to intervene to end this movement. Sterile, of course. When the photocopier arrived, things got much worse.

The experts in information sciences Charles H. Bennett, from IBM in New York, and Ming Li, from Ontario, Canada, analyzed a series of message chains from the photocopier era. They collected a total of 33, all of them variants or mutations of the same letter: they differed in misspellings, omissions of certain words or in the placement of certain phrases, as they indicated in their report:

As a gene, they have an average length of approximately two thousand characters. Like a powerful virus, the letter threatens to kill you and induces you to pass it on to "your friends and colleagues" (some variation of this letter has probably reached millions of people). As a trait that can be transmitted, it promises benefits for you and for those to whom you pass it. As genomes, message chains undergo a natural selection, and sometimes parts of them even pass between coexisting "species."

In the United States it is illegal to send chain letters that imply a pyramid scheme or other type of financial incentive set forth in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, of the Postal Lottery Statute. The rest, they have free way. And it will probably continue for a long time. IT companies argue that, for its potentially exponential growth capacityThey are also a burdensome administrative problem due to the excessive consumption of bandwidth and storage space that they can cause.

There have been Divine Letters since at least the Middle Ages. And you could see that in the Book of the Dead a meme that promised the resurrection to those who copied the grave. Although if we get lax, and a bit metaphorical, perhaps the first manifestation of a message chain is the one written in the apocalypse, 22:19: “And if anyone removes the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part of the tree of life" It is clear, then, that the message chains are here to stay.

And well, you can imagine what is coming now: every day that passes without you retweeting this article, a kitten will die. And if, in addition, you add that I have written it I, @SergioParra_ then the lottery will touch you