How Crime Could Stop A.I. From Taking Over

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Image by Peter H from Pixabay

If you’re like most of the population, you’re probably most familiar with cryptocurrency through the growing number of media stories around fraud, like FTX and well, it seems, a new one everyday. And when was the last time you read a news article about the wonders of blockchain and how it will change your life and well, everything. And now the AI scams and disinformation wave is a digital tsunami flooding our devices.

To peer into the mists of the future of AI in our world, we might first look to those other two technologies that promised us techtopia; blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrencies are wandering about in a bitter winter blizzard, lost and largely irrelevant to most of the world’s population. Who are more concerned with getting a pay rise to make this weeks grocery order and paying the monthly mortgage. Blockchain? Who ties blocks together with chains? Whatever is that anyway?

As Gizmodo has reported, the deluge of fake websites has begun. And most aren’t even hiding the fact the content was written by ChatGPT or similar. Their goal? Try to get as much clickbait revenue through programmatic advertising as fast as they can before being shut down.

Then there’s all the horrible, AI written emails clogging up the spam filters or being bought by companies that just want lightning fast leads to pile onto their sales reps then demand at the end of the month why they didn’t make the 3,542 calls they got sent as leads?

On the one hand, companies see AI as a tool to automate the sales process, reducing the friction of humans dealing with humans. Management drunk on the delusion that humans prefer talking to machines when they themselves hate talking to machines. And won’t. Humans talking to humans is expensive.

Human owners of factories tried to turn humans into machines. Instead they got unions and human rights laws.

Blockchain has drifted off the coast of the real world, lost at sea in a dinghy, the oars to get it back to the shores of reality, long ago lost. Blockchain is hopelessly adrift. Not so much a victim of nasty criminals in the digital shadows as of never giving us anything newsworthy to drive the hype machine beyond a few months.

Crypto, ah crypto. That has captured our collective imaginations. Multi-billion dollar scams, upstart twenty-somethings with wild hair and smirks hailed as the crown princes of a utopian future. Ending up dragged in handcuffs by the FBI and their final claim to fame an Interpol Red Notice.

The evidence of crypto is lost retirement savings, sleepy-eyed suburban denizens awaking to locked up computers, rushing to a corner store in a sketchy neighbourhood to an ATM that sells Bitcoin. They just wanted the pictures of their kids growing up on the hard drive. They paid. The promised unlock key was never sent in return.

Governments and corporations being held ransom, a refusal to pay and the FBI sweeping in and recovering the lost millions of corporations. Sorry suburbanites, your family pictures were way down the list of institutional not caring.

And now we have Generative AI like ChatGPT and Midjourney. And scams. If you spend time on any social media channel, you’ve seen the wonderkind posts of the newsletter that will reveal all of the magic of AI and you too, will make millions. Just subscribe, for a small fee. Or sign-up for this or that email to receive your personal guide to getting rich with AI, cause the guy that wrote it? In the last two years he’s made millions from ChatGPT…even before ChatGPT was ever released.

Or the midnight call to the suburbanites? That voice must surely be their own child howling in agony at being hurt or falsely arrested right? It’s already happened. It will happen more. How about automated swatting calls? Already happened.

What may actually reduce the risks of AI taking over humanity and destroying the world? Criminals. Hackers. Scammers. Seeking the next digital dollar, they twist AI in such a way that governments, unable to understand what’s coming at them so fast, just shut it down. That consumers become so mistrusting of all they read, see and hear, block it out. Drift away from the internet, change their habits. It becomes the true start of the splinternet.

Future marketing campaigns may lead with statements like, “Guaranteed no Artificial Intelligence” in our content, on our website on our social media accounts. Remember the famous “Intel Inside” campaigns? How about “Humans Inside”? The future may be more human than we think.

What may well save us from the overthrow of Artificial Intelligence could be humanity’s darker side; scammers, hackers and criminals. How ironic is that?

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Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Digital / Cultural Anthropologist | I'm in WIRED, Forbes, National Geographic etc. | Head of Marketing Innovation | Cymru