The Rise Of A Digital Psychopath

ChatGPT has been on the news for the last couple of weeks and most people accepted that it is here to stay. The rise of machines did not happen with red-eyed metal robots stepping out of the production line. It all came down to a web app and discussions on future job losses. 

The story of the language-based AI tool is continuously developing.  For example, web apps can now generate a script for a video using ChatGPT and narrate it for you. Here goes an automated podcast that can be done in under an hour.  It will not be long before computational power will catch up to generate video content. It is possible that movie studios with big stars will vanish in the future with on-demand films generated and shared by AI. You will be able to tell the future Netflix the genre if you want to make the main character to look like or even use your own town as the place of action.

Technology just like events in real life is neutral. We create meanings out of events based on our understanding of the world, culture and context. A slap in the face may be an insult, a compliment, martial arts training or competition (yes we have those too now). As with any tool, AI will undoubtedly be used for both helpful and malicious purposes.

We, humans, will struggle to tell the difference between an algorithm and a life being. This is not a distant future it is already here. Last year I was chatting with a group of friend who was telling a story about a new bot that would call people to sell wine. Apparently “James” was so good at this that “he” would remember previous orders and structure a conversation in a casual way making the chat indistinguishable from a live person.

The fun part was that another friend listening to the conversation did not realise that he had made a couple of orders when the bot called without realising it was an automated call. My hapless friend actually enjoyed the conversation with the bot saying that “he” was pretty chirpy. 

There was a problem with James of course that apart from a speech recognition module he had no moral boundaries that most normal functioning members of society have. James would try to sell wine to children and people suffering from alcohol addiction resulting in a $200,000 fine to the company but the calls apparently continued. 

Cold calling is not only used by legitimately registered companies that can be located and penalised. Scammers also robocall random numbers using an unpaid tax bill, urgent Amazon delivery or dangerous virus as a pretence to defraud. At the moment this is done via a recorded message that requires a callback or an actual person calling from overseas. With the use of AI, this could be executed on a large scale targeting a much larger population size. “James” clones can be trained to be empathetic based on a person’s situation and create a targeted approach the mimicking tone of voice and accent.

Another massive-scale fraud enterprise is romantic scams. In 2022 70,000 people reported being scammed with a total loss of a staggering 1.3 billion dollars. Once fraudsters hooked a vulnerable person they drain them financially. It gets to the point that even police or banks intervene victims continue with payments still believing that they have a husband or wife stuck in a predicament overseas. 

I will make a statement here because I believe in the good nature of human beings. The majority of people either find another way of making money or feel pretty ashamed of being a scammer. However, if someone who does not have this issue employs an automated tool it becomes an extension of their dysfunctional personality. On their own, they may be limited to targeting a couple of people a day but AI gives them access to the economy of scale.

Nuclear charges can be used to warm people’s homes or destroy them. While AI inherently does not have an evil nature it also does not have a good-willed one either. I have no doubt that we will be able to use the same tools to counteract the bad guys. Until then keep your eyes pilled for scammer terminators and learn how to recognise that you have been taken for a ride from trusted sources.

What are your thoughts on this or have you received calls from James?

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