The latest spam epidemic comes from a country in the northern hemisphere better known for sausages and sauerkraut - Germany. Blame Sober.q - a virus whose name smacks of Teutonic logic. Sober.q is even more warped than the usual dreck. Instead of selling sex or an MBA, it has a new marketing angle: neo-nazism. Do not bother to enlist Babelfish to decode the diatribes. Take it from me: the general gist is that Hitler was really quite a nice guy and that the world would be a better place if only we had taken on board some of his progressive ideas such as genocide. Poor Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee. These original masterminds of the Net must be ruing the day it made the leap from top secret military resource to consumer toy. Now every dimwit fascist stuck in a mid-20th century time warp is free to inflict his or her plan for world domination upon you. We should have seen it coming since it amounts to just another example of the scourge of the geeks known as 'the revenge effect'. The most sweeping manifestation of this curse is, of course, what we politely term obesity. To elaborate, humans have been far too successful at inventing labour-saving devices. Nobody now needs to do anything more strenuous than pick up a handset or pump a mouse. Worse, thanks to innovations in production, cheap fatty foods abound - irresistible to those of us already too unfit to toil in the kitchen. As a result, our species looks set to become a conglomeration of blobs with bulbous brains. Soon, like professional rugby forwards and sumo wrestlers, we will all need to book double seats on an aeroplane. Ironically, the war against smoking accentuates the problem. Give up and you instantly suffer an insatiable attack of the munchies. Read on for a Luddite's litany of crippling consequences of human ingenuity. For starters, why do we have to deal with voice prompts that seem to double the time it takes to complete a telephone call as we languish on hold? Who needs antibiotics that promise to cure age-old diseases but wind up breeding multi-drug-resistant bacteria instead? Aside from increased sales, what is the point of low-tar cigarettes? They only mean you have to smoke more to get the same fix? Who wants to watch televised skiing when hi-tech cameras have abolished the blur that conveyed a sense of headlong adventure? What bright spark dreamed up an American football helmet that actually fosters a more violent style of play, creating a new and more disabling kind of injury? Apparently, when we play safe we are often at our most destructive. The meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor resulted from a test of enhanced safety procedures: perhaps the worst example of the revenge effect so far. The phrase was coined by the writer and academic Edward Tenner in an article titled 'Revenge Theory', which he wrote for a 1991 issue of Harvard Magazine. In the same year, an article in The New York Times titled 'Voice mail and fire ants?', he unravelled the implications of the revenge effect. 'The world seems to be getting even with mankind, twisting our cleverness against us. Or we may be unconsciously twisting it ourselves. This is not a new phenomenon, but technology has magnified it,' Tenner wrote. 'Wherever we look we face unintended consequences of mechanical, chemical, medical, social and financial ingenuity. They are revenge effects, and they are less the malignant ironies of a spiteful world than the results of a lack of human foresight.' Unlike the Iroquois Indians, who always considered the likely consequences of their actions seven generations into the future, when we test, experiment and invent, all too often we forget to look ahead and ask the acid question: 'What's the worst that could happen?' But would we be able to avoid the negative results of our actions even if we had the wisdom of the Iroquois? The revenge effect appears to be part of the furniture just as much as Murphy's Law, karma, and the Claire Swire effect (the exponential forwarding of intimate e-mail). So next time some German spam invades your inbox, consider this sobering fact: spam is an unintended consequence of the convenience of e-mails, and, like multi-drug-resistant bacteria and Nazi cults, probably impossible to eradicate. Get used to it.