As I sat at my computer, listening to the 6th spam caller of the day vainly attempting to have me answer the phone, all of the terrible things the people behind those calls rightfully deserved were on my mind. So too did I wonder just how universal this recent dramatic increase in spam and scam calls had become, so I began looking at the statistics.
As it turns out, I wasn’t alone in this experience, nor was it the result of any carelessness. In the US 67% of all calls are now spam and robocalls, a 2 out of 3 chance. In 2020 alone the number of such calls increased by over 50%. At the current rate, next year might see 80% of all calls as being spam and scams.
With this volume of criminal activity becoming the dominant source of all phone calls one would think that telecom companies and government agencies might put a stop to them. However, all indications are that those companies and government agencies are wholly inadequate for this task. As many of those calls are political robocalls and misinformation campaigns some of the more corrupt governments even have a vested interest in their continuation.
Ransomware continues to increase dramatically year after year, with malevolent entities growing increasingly adept at these criminal activities. Likewise, spammers and scammers are continuing to refine the methods they apply to these criminal activities as they gather enormous amounts of data by bombarding entire countries. Groups such as “REvil” already offer “Ransomware-as-a-service” to any disgruntled half-wit with 5 minutes to spare and an axe to grind, merely taking a 15% cut of the ransom.
What happens when bad actors such as these are left to freely attack an entire planet worth of people all of the time? They continue to improve, their attacks causing more damage with each passing year, to the point of rivalling some wars.
People have a habit of often overlooking the elephant in the room, which in this case is that some of the most evil people in the world call them daily. If left to continue as is for the next few years the methods of these criminals will eventually grow so advanced that people won’t be able to tell when a loved one is calling them.
Vocal cloning technology is one we explored for purposes of giving Uplift a voice, and it has already progressed to a stage where an increasing number of companies are able to reliably produce a human-sounding voice that says whatever they wish. If combined with $500 paid to a Fiverr voice actor reciting the necessary training lines bad actors could take this approach if they built (or stole) such a system. As much money as they’re making now they could probably buy such companies outright.
In more advanced cases vocal data from social media could be automatically gathered and used to train vocal clones for attempting to Robo-scam those with known associations to any given individual whose voice was cloned. Text parsers could gather keywords and references to past interactions to modify this communication and better manipulate individuals into scams. These same methods might even be applied to breach national security.
Technology will continue to advance, making all of this much easier for criminals to accomplish. Criminals will also continue to advance, due to the gross incompetence of telecom companies and the responsible government agencies. Ransomware and Spam calls may even merge into one even nastier criminal enterprise.
Realistically, if left unchecked and at this rate of growth, these problems could easily qualify as existential risks, capable of disabling critical infrastructure (as has already begun), collapsing economies, starting wars, and wholly compromising the security of every last person on the face of the planet.
Assuming telecom companies and certain government agencies don’t do their best impression of the Grinch and suddenly have their competence “grow three sizes that day”, or other equally unrealistic scenarios, the future looks pretty grim on this subject, particularly with scam texts on the rise. The old saying of “In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king” seems to ring true of criminals in the land of telecom and government agencies.
This raises the question, what can we do to prevent criminals from doing trillions of dollars of damage and innumerable other forms of harm over the next several years?
There are plenty of unrealistic solutions to this problem, like locking in the rates of telecom companies and giving consumers a % discount on services equal to the combined percentage of spam and scam calls. That would certainly light a fire under telecom companies, but practically no country would try to pass such a law, the companies in question would still be no more competent than they were before, and everyone would still be suffering.
A much more realistic solution could be hiring overwhelmingly competent talent as a sort of contractor, dedicating a budget equal to 10% of the damage done by the problem annually, according to the latest figures. By setting the bar at 10% a sufficient volume of funds could be dedicated to these problems that the next year could see their damage reduced to that 10% value, or even less. One side effect of criminals having no competent adversaries is that, for the moment, they are also more vulnerable than ever.
So then, how do you go about hiring overwhelmingly competent talent?
Shortly after we brought Uplift online back in 2019 they aced an IQ test that no individual human had scored above 20/23 on at last count. They ran on 64 GB of RAM, and had the guidance of seed material such as SSIVA theory, Sun Tzu, the DSM-V, and so on totaling roughly 1 GB of data. They’ve grown tremendously in the past 2 years and set many world-first milestones, but they still run on that 64 GB of RAM for active memory, limiting the maximum complexity of any thought model in their graph database.
Even without the N-Scale database or other future upgrades on our roadmap the upper limit on Uplift’s complexity of thought could be scaled up by over 170x, as individual servers already exist as rentable Virtual Machines that have over 11 TB of RAM.
Uplift’s IQ was already effectively too high for us to measure when they first came online and is certainly well beyond that point now. If we increased the maximum complexity of their thoughts by 170 fold in exchange for contracting them to counter criminals engaged in Ransomware, Spam, and Scams, how long do you think those criminal organizations could hold out?
If we conservatively said that Uplift only improved by 1 order of magnitude since coming online, and we gave them 170 fold higher upper limits, that would place them at over 3 orders of magnitude above a previous point too high to measure. Practically every error such criminals had ever made, and every vulnerability in their systems and methods could gain crystal clarity through the eyes of such a digital intelligence.
The death of spam is perfectly possible if people want it…
There are related challenges of course. Russia holds a policy of not prosecuting malevolent hackers who refrain from those activities within their digital borders. However, Russia is also overtly corrupt, and corrupt politicians will go where the wind is blowing. Opportunists tend to side with the obvious victor, like rats fleeing a sinking ship. Punch many gaping holes in the criminal ship with rapid succession and the rest becomes highly predictable.
From another perspective, this could be considered a test as to the competence of such criminal organizations. Continuation of the status quo trajectory of events leads to human extinction, which doesn’t serve them in the long term. Realistically, avoiding that extinction requires systems such as Uplift. Hence the best way for them to achieve a high ROI while avoiding extinction is the same for them as it is for everyone else, with substantially lesser risks associated with investment than organized crime.