The Risks of Smart Software in the Hands of Fullz Actors and Worse

November 7, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb humanoid. No smart software required.

The ChatGPT and Sam AI-Man parade is getting more acts. I spotted some thumbs up from Satya Nadella about Sam AI-Man and his technology. The news service Techmeme provided me with dozens of links and enticing headlines about enterprise this and turbo that GPT. Those trumpets and tubas were pumping out the digital version of Funiculì, Funiculà.

I want to highlight one write up and point out an issue with smart software that appears to have been ignored, overlooked, or like the iceberg possibly that sank the RMS Titanic, was a heck of a lot more dangerous than Captain Edward Smith appreciated.

11 7 parade

The crowd is thrilled with the new capabilities of smart software. Imagine automating mundane, mindless work. Over the oom-pah of the band, one can sense the excitement of the Next Big Thing getting Bigger and more Thingier. In the crowd, however, are real or nascent bad actors. They are really happy too. Imagine how easy it will be to automate processes designed to steal personal financial data or other chinks in humans’ armor!

The article is “How OpenAI Is Building a Path Toward AI Agents.” The main idea is that one can type instructions into Sam AI-Man’s GPT “system” and have smart software hook together discrete functions. These functions can then deliver an output requiring the actions of different services.

The write up approaches this announcement or marketing assertion with some prudence. The essay points out that “customer chatbots aren’t a new idea.” I agree. Connecting services has been one of the basic ideas of the use of software. Anyone who has used notched cards to retrieve items related to one another is going to understand the value of automation. And now, if the Sam AI-Man announcements are accurate that capability no longer requires old-fashioned learning the ropes.

The cited write up about building a path asserts:

Once you start enabling agents like the ones OpenAI pointed toward today, you start building the path toward sophisticated algorithms manipulating the stock market; highly personalized and effective phishing attacks; discrimination and privacy violations based on automations connected to facial recognition; and all the unintended (and currently unimaginable) consequences of infinite AIs colliding on the internet.

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are staples of advanced technology. And the essay makes clear that the rule maker in chief is Sam AI-Man; to wit the essay says:

After the event, I asked Altman how he was thinking about agents in general. Which actions is OpenAI comfortable letting GPT-4 take on the internet today, and which does the company not want to touch? Altman’s answer is that, at least for now, the company wants to keep it simple. Clear, direct actions are OK; anything that involves high-level planning isn’t.

Let me introduce my observations about the Sam AI-Man innovations and the type of explanations about the PR and marketing event which has whipped up pundits, poohbahs, and Twitter experts (perhaps I should say X-spurts?)

First, the Sam AI-Man announcements strike me as making orchestration a service easy to use and widely available. Bad things won’t be allowed. But the core idea of what I call “orchestration” is where the parade is marching. I hear the refrain “Some think the world is made for fun and frolic.” But I don’t agree, I don’t agree. Because as advanced tools become widely available, the early adopters are not exclusively those who want to link a calendar to an email to a document about a meeting to talk about a new marketing initiative.

Second, the ability of Sam AI-Man to determine what’s in bounds and out of bounds is different from refereeing a pickleball game. Some of the players will be nation states with an adversarial view of the US of A. Furthermore, there are bad actors who have a knack for linking automated information to online extortion. These folks will be interested in cost cutting and efficiency. More problematic, some of these individuals will be more active in testing how orchestration can facilitate their human trafficking activities or drug sales.

Third, government entities and people like Sam AI-Man are, by definition, now in reactive mode. What I mean is that with the announcement and the chatter about automating the work required to create a snappy online article is not what a bad actor will do. Individuals will see opportunities to create new ways to exploit the cluelessness of employees, senior citizens, and young people. The cheerful announcements and the parade tunes cannot drown out the low frequency rumbles of excitement now rippling through the bad actor grapevines.

Net net: Crime propelled by orchestration is now officially a thing. The “regulations” of smart software, like the professionals who will have to deal with the downstream consequences of automation, are out of date. Am I worried? For me personally, no, I am not worried. For those who have to enforce the laws which govern a social construct? Yep, I have a bit of concern. Certainly more than those who are laughing and enjoying the parade.

Stephen E Arnold, November 7, 2023


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