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Reblogged:AI Scams Show Value of Keeping Context

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In a discussion about how to defend oneself from scammers using AI, the good folks at Fisher Investments lead by claiming that "patience, skepticism, and caution" are "timeless tools" we can marshal in our defense.

Few would argue with that, but I see a missed opportunity, particularly after reading the following subtitle: "The more you know, the better your defenses can be."

That sentence, by the way, had been lifted into the link I followed to the story.

Everybody knows knowledge is power, Gus, you might be thinking. And that's exactly the problem. Lots of people know lots of things, but fail to use what they know, when they need it.

We all know people who, for example, are veritable storehouses of "useless information" who do well at trivia games, but lack common sense. To play on a common turn of phrase: It's not just what you know, but how you use it that matters.

To be fair, I think patience, skepticism, and caution are a stab at saying this, as we can see from the below:
Image by Sammy Sander, via Pixabay, license.
... The new tricks mainly involve so-called deepfakes, where bad apples use generative AI to clone people's voices and images. One is an evolution of a widespread scheme where criminals send a text or email purporting to be from a loved one in trouble and in need of money in a pinch. Now, scammers can plug an audio clip into a program that can synthesize the voice to create an entirely new message -- audio they can easily rip from social media or hacked voicemails. You could get a call that sounds like a child, grandchild or other loved one in distress, making it vital to keep your cool, ask questions only that individual could know the answer to, and not let the purported urgency override your skepticism and defenses. [bold added]
The part in could be summed up as Always keep a full context when evaluating a knowledge claim, and those tips are only part of what that entails. Knowing that such scams exist, or having some alternate means of verifying someone's whereabouts would also qualify.

It is interesting to compare the panicked, context-free thought process the con man is hoping to provoke with the fallacy of context-dropping identified by Ayn Rand, specifically in the realm of time range:
A rational man sees his interests in terms of a lifetime and selects his goals accordingly. This does not mean that he has to be omniscient, infallible or clairvoyant. It means that he does not live his life short-range and does not drift like a bum pushed by the spur of the moment. It means that he does not regard any moment as cut off from the context of the rest of his life, and that he allows no conflicts or contradictions between his short-range and long-range interests. He does not become his own destroyer by pursuing a desire today which wipes out all his values tomorrow. [bold added]
Falling for such a con is not the same thing as willfully pursuing a short-range goal that conflicts with one's long-range interest, but the effects are similar: In the case of the con, one is tricked into giving away money needed for such goals.

While it might be easy for most to see why one should be aware of the latest scams, it is profitable to consider that they are, more broadly speaking, attempts to cause people to drop context, actually or effectively.

Thanks to Ayn Rand, we have the vocabulary to describe what is being done and, more important, we have an ethical explanation for why context is always important, and not just when someone is trying to pull a fast one.

-- CAV

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