(Before I start this week’s Thursday Thought, I wanted to let you know that we launch a new project tomorrow. I have been exploring various AI for some time now as a creator. I created the image you see in this blog apart from where noted. Tomorrow, we launch a new audio version of the Thursday Thought, I will release the first couple as open access, and then it will be a paid subscriber feature. I didn’t want to simply narrate each article, so I narrate them over a bed of binaural beats to promote the alpha wave state and enhance creativity and relaxation. In addition, it is accompanied by an ai-powered video of Mandalas (once again to power creativity and stress relief). The creator of that AI, Nicolai Klemke, has kindly offered a discount code THEINNOSHOW for our audience here. Enter upon checkout to get 20% off forever.
As always, I am open to feedback, what works, what doesn’t etc.
Thank you for subscribing.
“I visualise a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans, and I’m rooting for the machines.” — Claude Shannon (“the father of information theory”)
An elderly Spanish lady lost nearly a quarter of a million pounds to a man pretending to be God. On 5th July, a Spanish court charged the scam artist with fraud after swindling €286,692 from the victim. He was a family friend and knew that the old lady, Esperanza suffered from religious delusions. He also knew about her nest egg, accumulated from years of living frugally.
Targeting her vulnerability, he started making anonymous calls to Esperanza in 2013. He would impersonate divine figures such as God, Jesus Christ, and the Virgin Mary. The conman coaxed Esperanza into withdrawing large sums from her accounts, promising to deposit them in the “Bank of Heaven”. He even convinced her that this heavenly bank would yield higher returns on her savings than any terrestrial bank could offer. The unsuspecting Esperanza genuinely believed God Himself was asking for her hard-earned money.
Scams in the Age of AI
In 2020, the top three types of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission were imposter scams, online shopping scams, and identity theft. While scams and fraud have been around as long as human society, what happens when a scammer is no longer a person but an AI? As in Esperanza’s case, trust is often the scammer’s most potent weapon. This elderly woman, driven by her religious obsession, gave her life savings to someone she believed was divine. With its capacity to learn and adapt, AI could potentially exploit that trust on a much larger scale. Imagine a scenario where an AI learns to impersonate a trusted family member, friend, or religious leader’s voice. Imagine your child embarks on a trip around the world or inter-railing in Europe. In the middle of the night, you receive a distress call from their number asking for an urgent bank transfer. In a state of fight or flight, you follow through without hesitation. Once transferred, you call them back, and they answer in an entirely different emotional state. It hits you. You have been conned, but how?
Once your voice is in the public domain (as many of our voices are), AI can train to emulate that voice. (I use AI to fix mistakes while creating content and vodcasts).
Fraudsters know when we are away simply by monitoring social media, giving them names, contact details and even home addresses. Using this combination with audio “deepfakes”, fraudsters are conning unwitting parents. The advice is to develop a password for such an event, and that password must never be written down (digitally, at least).
In a recent talk, Yuval Noah Harari shared how AI has mastered the human operating system. What is that operating system? Language, communication and the stories we tell ourselves. Everything we tell ourselves is a story akin to a software programme running in our hardware brains. Cryptocurrency is a story some people choose to believe. Brands are stories. Religions are stories. We just choose to accept our story over someone else’s account. When AI masters the ability to tell stories, target our vulnerabilities (Cambridge Analytica) and predict emotional responses, we have truly let the genie out of the bottle.
Harari predicts that just as the industrial revolution created the working class, the AI revolution will create a “useless class”. When the wealthiest 1% have access to intelligence amplification technologies even more potent than Elon Musk’s Neuralink, they will surpass the masses who can’t afford it. We are getting to a point in human history where just as the wealth gap creates a wider gap (it takes money to make money), the technology gap will create a biological gap. As Harari says, “Economic differences will translate into biological differences”. That was true in the past to some extent; the rich had access to better food and resources, so they were taller and healthier, for example. However, with access to cutting-edge technologies, we may see the most significant inequality in history.
One last curve ball to leave you with. Yes, the 1% might become Gods and the rest of us the useless. But. If we do not constrain the AI behind those technologies, what is the God behind the Gods?
Thanks for Reading
This article was inspired by the live stage I MC’ed in Austria with Greg Satell, Jean Gomes and Phaedra Boinodiris. I also hosted Dutch cybercrime expert John Fokker. I don’t have the audio for that one.
This week, we launched a magnificent 9-part series with Mark Solms, author of “The Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness”. This series culminates with Mark’s current project to create an artificial consciousness.
Those interviews are available on our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8YFh5opXFzzwfMAheZFqAw
For an antidote to human obsolescence in an age of AI, check out the episode with my friend Edward Hess.