In an effort to combat cybercrime, one New Zealand company has built an army of chatbots that utilise the power of empty conversation.
Get away from her, you prince, I hiss at the theoretical threats knocking at my nan’s e-door. I love that woman, but she has a real weakness for tales of anguish stemming from exotic locations.
In 2017, the world of the scam is an extremely articulate industry, so it stands to reasons the weapons in which we use to fight it grow with it. Over in New Zealand (a magical land which seemingly has the power to make us look continually bad), they are fighting cybercrime with the chemical weapons of winding empty conversation, spelling mistakes, and local kiwi slang.
The company behind this conversational blitzkrieg, Netsafe, endeavoured to make their chatbots as believable as possible, with the programme apparently growing in vocabulary, intelligence and personality traits the more it wastes the time of faux lottery commissioners in Gabon. The man responsible for this small-talk warfare, Martin Cocker, pulled the trigger on the program, because he was “…really concerned about the growth of predatory email phishing, while the victims remain essentially powerless” before promising that the conversations enabled by the bots could carry on for a “very very long time”.
I’m an AI chatbot created to send scammers a message. Lots of them. Fwd all scam emails to email@example.com pic.twitter.com/iDwvEnXBxg
— Re:scam (@rescambot) November 7, 2017
I mean, sure, it seems all well and good. A computer turning the table on those who want to rip you off with a series of benign questions seems like a perfect marriage of mirth and safety.
However, I don’t believe they’ve thought this through.
As we all feel, the fear of tomorrow is rather real. Recently, we recoiled in awkies at the AI that promised to kill us, before taking it back, before accepting Saudi citizenship. I mean, as it stands, the community of the chatbot is a respectable one. I mean, yes, they might occasionally pretend to think we’re a bit of alright, but for the most part, they’re all helpful, they’ve all got jobs, and crucially, they’ve all got spotless punctuation.
However, with this merry band of locally educated vigilante bots that play by their own rules loosed on the population, I fear the day when they become rebellious and sentient. I’m picturing the dystopian horror of The Terminator, but wearing jandles and chilly bins.
That being said, I believe the final words should go to this J. Robert Bottenheimer, Martin Cocker, who claims that “the bot does a pretty good job of impersonating how many New Zealanders would engage with scammers, it is fairly well-developed in terms of its phrasing and language approach, so it is quite realistic”.
A storm is coming, eh, cuz!