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  • Robert Farago

FCC Bans AI Robocalls

You can't stop the AI simulation

The Federal Communications Commission has officially banned AI robocalls. The ruling falls under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 – a law that already bans any pre-recorded call made “without the prior express consent of the called party.”

So… can you say window dressing? Pissing in the wind? Any euphemism describing an activity with zero chance of curtailing a problem will do. A problem that’s bad and getting worse.

Robocalls by the numbers…

Robocall-blocking app YouMail reckons Americans have received 4.3 billion robocalls. Last month.

I make that 51.6b robocalls per year. Approximately 150 robocalls per head of population.

The FCC fines robocallers $23k per call. In theory. If the feds had collected on last year’s robocall count, they could have reduced the federal deficit by over a trillion dollars.

Oh wait. Twenty-seven states (including New Hampshire) exempt political robocalls from the Do Not Call Registry. Estimates peg that number at 434m to 9.4b per year.

The AI robocall that got the FCC’s goat was political: AI Joe Biden discouraging people from voting in New Hampshire’s presidential primary.

The FCC caught up with the Texas-based perp, then capitalized on the collar by changing its rules to outlaw AI-flavored political robocalls in The Granite State – and beyond!

A distinction with a difference

To be fair, the FCC’s right to hone-in on AI robocalls. Regular robocalls are pretty easy to recognize. AI robocalls not so much.

An AI robocall scammer can turn a short voice sample into a fully interactive AI real-time chatterbox.

The speed and quality of the AI voice simulation is rapidly improving. It will soon be impossible to know if the person calling you is someone you know or someone using the voice of someone you know.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, phone scams cost Americans some $10.5 billion in 2023. With AI tech, that’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better.

Reality is Dead

AI robocall mind-fuckery joins the arrival of AI models. AI videos of politicians saying things they never said. AI “news” clips. AI celebrity sex tapes. AI virtual reality. AI enhanced reality. Yes there is that…

Apple’s Vision Pro goggles blend real world reality with computer-generated AI reality, creating a Hannah Montana hybrid. Yes but – whose reality is it anyway? Who says you get control over “your” reality?

There are already AI characters in video games. How long before an AI salesperson shows up in your “enhanced reality” to sell you cell phone service? Masquerading as a new “friend”? An old friend?

Speaking of AI scams, be careful out (in?) there! Look out for a cop telling you the police have arrested your child, directing you to pay a bail bondsman.

You see what’s happening? AI is creating a new interpersonal (if that’s the right word) paradigm: trust no one and nothing.

Not what you hear or see or, eventually, what you touch (e.g., sex robots). Smell and taste are safe for now – until Elon Musk’s mob fits your brain with a Neuralink chip.

Navigating this AI-enhanced semi-dreamworld is going to be a bitch. How will you know who’s or what’s real?

You won’t. The new challenge: figuring out what’s dangerous and what’s helpful. What’s good and what’s bad. What’s important.

It’s the same challenge humans have always faced. Only this time, we’re going to do it in an AI-enhanced hall of mirrors. Good luck with that.


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