From my bottomless idea box

Someone recently asked me if I ever run out of topics to write about. She knew I write for this outstanding hyperlocal newspaper serving not one but two westside communities.

I have a bottomless idea box, courtesy of the Greater Cleveland area "community of learners" that I teach technology knowledge (digital literacy), help alleviate and solve technology related pain points and challenges. Rummaging through my box as end-of-year cleaning, I see a couple notable trends in the last months of 2023: an uptick in our seniors embracing smartphones and questions regarding artificial intelligence (AI).

Artificial intelligence, just like anything else, is a double-edged sword depending on who's using it. AI also is not a recent innovation as it has been around for a long time.

A simple example of AI use may be an online store promising a customized shopping experience. To deliver on that promise, AI will be learning your preferences. Your tendencies, like "are you brand conscious or budget conscious?", are tracked so they can showcase things that you're more likely to buy.

There are tons of other values AI makes possible such as a search engine that returns more accurate results to your query keywords, a spam filter that does a better job of keeping spam and phishing emails/text messages out of your respective inboxes, voice assistants like Apple's Siri or Google Assistant interacting better with you … just to name a few more.

But the context of the seniors' questions according to my idea box was more a concern that "bad" people will use AI against them for illicit gains. In the real world, and for centuries, a "con," by definition, "cheats or tricks someone by gaining their trust and persuading them to believe something that is not true."

This is not far from what a nefarious entity, aka a con, does in the digital world using phishing email/text. So a simple example is a con using AI to create a more convincing phishing email/text message to increase the chance of potential victims to respond to the call-to-action of clicking a button or calling the toll-free number listed.

Another "good" AI use case exists where a long-dead celebrity appears in a current TV commercial and says things that they never said when alive to promote a product or a cause. Unfortunately, the same AI technology can be used by the digital world cons to amass ill-gotten gains in the real world.

Specifically, seniors are concerned about getting a phone call from their (alleged) grandson asking for money. The same AI that enabled a celebrity to come back from the dead in the digital world makes it sound like it was really their grandson asking for money.

If the above scenario happens, my advice is to buy time any way possible and fact check – i.e. in the above example, call your grandson back on a number you know is his. Even if he allegedly says he is in jail, a well-known con, if it was a con then he will answer. There are many other ways to fact check too!

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy coaching as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation. Please visit EmpowerSeniors.Org for more information!

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Volume 16, Issue 2, Posted 9:58 AM, 02.06.2024