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ANNOUNCER: "Discovery of a hidden folder usually means one of two things - either you've found something of great insight, or the exact opposite." - A quote from “A Guide to Practical Decoding”, expanded edition
First the emails started disappearing.
Most people thought it was just an excuse, until enough evidence accrued to confirm the issue was real: up to 10% of all emails never reached their recipients.
IT experts were expected to solve the problem, but they admitted they didn't really understand how any of this tech stuff worked either, so the subject was quietly dropped.
After all, they were emails, and no one really missed them.
Then some emails started being delivered to wrong recipients.
Like a confidential document discussing a company's growth strategy sent to its direct competitor.
Or a PDF with all salaries distributed to every employee.
Or a husband's missive to his mistress redirected to his wife.
Again, no cause could be established, and no technological remedy.
This prompted some to recommend more honest communication, and increased transparency in general.
What happened was that people clammed up and shared even less information than before.
And that husbands avoided proper nouns, always leaving the option open for the recipient to feel like she was the intended addressee.
Then made-up messages started to appear.
Hi Dr. Jack! My cat is very slow and does not eat cat food. Can you make an appointment for me?
Hello Tony, remember me? It's been a long time since our last get-together!
Can you tell me how your handmade meatballs are made they were so delicious
I will be travelling from Los Angeles to Montreal in February. This is my new number, please save it.
Most of these messages were clearly made up. After all, who travels to Montreal in February?
However, whenever one tried to engage with senders they would stop replying, and all calls would get forwarded to voicemail. Try as one might, no one could actually reach a real person.
Which raised the question: were the messages made up, or were the messengers?
Then made-up articles, editorials, blogs, books, tweets, and reports started to pop up. Ostensibly written by reputed authors, they contained numerous half-truths and misdirections. When confronted about their accuracy however, the purported authors would repudiate ever publicizing them.
People also started to report the opposite issue - that they were trying to post something online, but that the words simply wouldn't appear. The text would only go through after tinkering with the wording so much that the argument was so far removed from the original thought that it was either antithetical to it, or simply no longer comprehensible.
The modicum of meaning that remained was finished off by autocorrect.
English was the first to go.
Languages with smaller textual corpuses held off for a while, but trust in the written word was rapidly eroding when it came to them as well.
Eventually, no one was able to hold confidence in anything one would read at all.
So telltale signs were identified to help ascertain if the message was authentic or not.
Generally speaking, fake texts utilized more flowery language, with their style described as "ornate" or "eloquent".
Synthetic texts used less common words, especially in similes.
It was quickly observed that genuine messages contained more typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors.
They also contained more logical fallacies.
It didn't happen overnight.
It happened over a generation.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, until the only way to be certain something was written by an actual person, was if it was stupid.
ANNOUNCER: This episode of The Program was made by four people: Jacqueline Ainsworth, Christien Ledroit, David Bradshawe, and IMS. Visit programaudioseries.com for more details. The reason new episodes take so long is that the show's principal creators have day jobs. Your support would go a long way towards making us financially independent. Please subscribe to The Program on Apple Podcasts or support us on Patreon and help us speed up the production process.