AI is just another way to ruin lives

Published 12:13 pm Thursday, March 7, 2024

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I’m old enough to remember the creation of the internet and the birth of its many incorrigible brats, which we later called “social media.” I also remember writing many years ago that none of this would be good for us. Some scoffed at me.

All of this might have reached the point where I should say, “I told you so.”

But wait. Now, we have the creation of artificial intelligence, which its proponents tell us will make our lives better. That reminds me of the line Levon Helm (Mr. Rate) spoke with a sense of suspicion in the 2007 movie “Shooter” regarding whether a claim being made was the truth: “They also said that artificial sweeteners were safe, WMDs were in Iraq and Anna Nicole married for love.”

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AI is the use of computer systems to do work that normally requires human intelligence to see, hear, recognize and make decisions. Putting it that way sure makes it sound like a lot of good can be done with AI, and it’s true. But a lot of bad things can also be done. And they are being done right here.

This new computer science is being used to capture a friend or family member’s voice and turn it into a blackmail attempt.

Here are just two examples of AI scams.

My son-in-law received a phone call from my daughter. She was crying hysterically saying she needed help, that she was being held against her will. He knew it was her voice and her phone number on his cell phone caller ID. But something didn’t seem quite right to him, so he ended the call. After waiting briefly, he called my daughter on her work cell. She answered as chipper as always. When he told her what had just happened, she insisted she was fine. Only after she walked in front of one of their security cameras and continued the conversation was he convinced she was safe.

Scammers likely captured her voice from a cell phone call in which she was emotional, then used AI to create the riveting call to her husband.

In another local case, a grandmother in the early stages of dementia received a call from a distraught grandchild who claimed to be in trouble and needed money. The child begged Grandma not to tell Mom or Dad because that would cause more trouble. Fortunately, that scam ended because the parents had the wherewithal years earlier to have their names added to the elderly parent’s bank accounts.

The Nigerian Prince Scam is alive and well and rapidly evolving, and there are other types of scams that are all too familiar.

A local friend and his wife in this area were driving one day when he received an email from a friend who said he was having trouble purchasing gift cards for his granddaughter’s birthday and asked if he could help with that. He knew his friend wasn’t computer savvy, and besides the friend said in the email he wasn’t available for a phone call to discuss. Helping his friend was uppermost in his mind. It’s what good humans do. But something made him suspicious. A phone call ended the gift card scam.

One can only imagine the many ways evil people can use AI to do harm in this year’s election campaigns and undermine the democratic process. As Shakespeare wrote, “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”

Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at