One of my cognitive science profs used to have a bit of a soft spot for evolutionary psychology and it is from him that I developed my love of “cheater detection.” If you’re an evolutionary psychologist, see, a lot of the righteous indignation you see from your fellow simians out there in the world is traceable quite directly to a part of our psyche which is tweaked powerfully by the feeling that someone is cheating – acquiring benefit without paying expected costs. It really gets us riled up, on a very primitive level.
It makes sense, of course. Cheaters in a social species will act in ways (eating other people’s food, making sweet sweet love to other people’s lady friends, etc) that allow them to acquire huge positional benefits within the group unless there are powerful repercussions like ostracism or worse.
So lo and behold, here we are with all this evolution behind us and wouldn’t you know it, our brains are wired such that someone jumping the queue at Walmart or trying to pass a traffic jam on the shoulder is taking their life in their hands. It is rarely the case that I am pro-homicide but in the case of those inveterate jack-offs that pull into the lane which they know is ending right up ahead, and which will only gain them 3 car lengths, but will slow everyone down when they force themselves back in, I am more than a little inclined to make case-by-case exceptions.
Thus, as a public service, in this time of charity and co-opted pagan solstice rituals, I have put together a list of three of my favourite recent stories of cheater-busting. These stories are cheater-detection catharsis. You can go ahead and pump your fist at the end and say “Yes!” under your breath. I won’t tell.
1. What’s Noka Worth? Noka Chocolate is a hyper-elite brand of chocolate which gets packaged into gift baskets at the Emmys and so forth. Rarest of the rare cacao, hyper pure, no additives, blah blah blah. I will not be the one to impeach a company that focuses on quality for being elitist – quality is a legitimate thing after which to strive, and a legitimate thing for which to charge a premium. But at $2000/lb, you should be able to demonstrate some actual value add.
2. The Tale of Lyger, Jericho, and Republican Congressional Aide Todd Shriber. Todd decided to hire a “hacker” to change his GPA at Texas Christian University. Too bad he ended up emailing a couple of the guys running attrition.org which, like most sites which chronicle network security news, are used to being solicited by idiots, and tend to have some fun along the way. After you read the blog post, you can read the actual emails here (or, since attrition is under almost constant attack by one party or another, the cached version).
3. Reverse 419 Artwork Scam. Okay, I confess this isn’t as recent as the other two, but I have a lot of love for 419eater.com. These guys respond to the 419 scam emails from Nigeria and elsewhere and, by acting as interested parties, get the scammers to perform in various silly ways. Usually it’s restricted to requests for religious conversion or even getting the scammer to send some money themselves but this is my absolute favourite. I won’t spoil it or anything, but if you only read one, read this one.