By Jim Towey
A CBS “60 Minutes” piece recently revealed that criminals at home and abroad are using artificial intelligence tools to steal retirement savings from the elderly. Last year $10 billion was stolen through high-tech schemes. No group fell victim to such fraud more than our senior citizens.
Here’s how it works. Scammers hack into grandma’s email account or discover grandpa’s cell number. With this private information they handcraft a personalized emergency appeal that would fool even tech-savvy grandkids, using an AI-powered app that allows them to imitate to near perfection the voice of family member or loved ones. They also use a “spoofing tool” to enable caller ID to show that person’s name even though the call originates from the criminals. Then comes the phony phone call pleading for money because of a medical, legal or personal crisis.
Such deceit works because elders are soft touches when a loved one is in need or their own limited computer proficiency challenged (as when a “Call tech support!” message pops up on the screen that lures the unsuspecting into organized crime’s trap). Beyond the billions of dollars stolen through such digital fraud is the devastating loss of self-respect when the retiree realizes that he or she has been played a fool. “How could I have been so foolish to transfer the money?” is the common refrain. That’s why, according to law enforcement, most seniors don’t report the crime. They are too embarrassed and heartbroken.
“Empathic” AI is the even bigger scam
But this is not the worst scam involving AI. The bigger con is the PR campaign underway to convince the public that AI will benefit humanity on a scale heretofore unimagined and that the danger of misuse is badly exaggerated. One such pitchman is Marc Andreessen who brazenly claims that AI will actually humanize us. In his hauntingly arrogant blog post, “Why AI Will Save the World,” Andreessen assures us that AI technology will “make everything we care about better.” He promises that children will have an “infinitely compassionate” AI tutor to educate them and the elderly will have caring AI companions to ward off loneliness, even if these caregivers are plugged into a wall.
Imagine that you are dying and the hospice offers you what Andreessen calls an “empathetic AI friend” to accompany you as you draw your dying breath. Who wants that? He claims, “Chatbots are already more empathetic than their human counterparts.” Who actually believes that? “Empathic AI” is like non-dairy creamer or plant-based meat. There is no such thing, by definition, no matter how you distort reality.
Andreessen envisions a “straight spiral up to a material utopia that neither Adam Smith or Karl Marx ever dared dream of.” This godless vision is uniform among the 21st century atheists and secular humanists now calling the shots in science and high tech. Andreessen sees AI as a savior and endows it with godlike authority to redefine our social, economic and political structures. This concentrates power in the hands of dealers like him who rig the card game and win the pot at the expense of civilization. Facebook/Meta, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and others taught us during Covid through their algorithmic biases how to secretly stack the deck. Andreessen never explains how those biases will be arbitrated in his AI utopia.
He dismisses AI critics and their “hysterical fear and paranoia.” So I guess we can’t question his criticism of our military’s “very limited human leaders” or his declaration that “AI is going to improve warfare”? Improve warfare?
The war on your job
AI already has declared war on human jobs. ChatGPT (now used in Microsoft Bing and Google Bard searches), which Big Tech and venture capital firms promote with evangelical zeal, has become all the rage. Bet on this: white collar jobs currently held by humans will be filled by generative AI. Robots already have made blue-collar jobs disappear, such as at Amazon and in manufacturing. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, financial analysts, and customer service positions are next.
Such job displacement should surprise no one. As the sophistication of AI rapidly develops, unchecked by regulation or ethics, expect marketplace economics to demand cost – and human – cutting. And get ready for misinformation campaigns on an unprecedented scale. No wonder many AI pioneers have warned about the grave dangers of AI or called for an outright suspension of all further AI advances and implementations until the science can be better understood, ethical guard rails put in place, and the public properly protected.
Andreessen assures us that “AI is a machine – is not going to come alive any more than your toaster will.” Well, some retiree savings are now toast, thanks to AI.
Seniors, beware AI scams and scam artists. And Marc, you’re right, the world does need a savior. But you or AI isn’t it.