By Debbie Burke
Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.
That saying has been attributed to sources like Benjamin Franklin and Edgar Allen Poe. It’s appeared in song lyrics like Leon Haywood’s “Believe Half of What You See (and None of What You Hear)” and the third verse of the immortal Marvin Gaye classic, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”
Today, those wise words are even truer because of Voice Cloning, a new tool created by Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the cyber-scammer’s toolkit.
Phishing and Vishing are scams where criminals contact victims, often posing as a bank, reputable business, government agency, hospital, law enforcement, or other entity in order to gain access to your personal and/or financial information.
Phishing contacts victims by email, urging you to open an infected attachment or click on a link that downloads malware. Phishing attacks are generally sophisticated and massive in scale, targeting thousands of businesses and individuals at a time using automation.
Reportedly 74% of organizations in the US have been successfully targeted by phishing attacks.
Vishing (AKA voice phishing) is when a scammer contacts the victim by phone, impersonating a law officer, banker, charity, etc. who convinces you to verbally share your confidential information. The caller ID is spoofed, making the call appear to come from a legitimate source like a bank, Social Security Administration, credit card company, etc.
Vishing requires a scammer to contact one victim at a time, to persuade them to give up sensitive personal and financial information on the phone, making it less efficient than phishing.
However, vishing can still be devastatingly effective, especially now thanks to Voice Cloning. AI can take a sample of someone’s voice and create speech that’s impossible to tell from the real person.
Voice cloning is a boon for scams like Family Emergency, Friend Stranded Overseas, or Grandchild in Trouble. Scammers harvest voice samples of your loved one from YouTube, TikTok, and other online sources.
They can also call the person to record their voice or even use their outgoing voicemail message.
In a few seconds, criminals can download enough of a person’s voice to create a convincing imitation.
Now when “Johnny” calls Grandma saying he was in a car accident and needs bail money, the voice is identical to the real Johnny. That triggers panic, and the victim is more likely to act without thinking. And lose money in the process.
“Johnny” will ask for gift cards, cryptocurrency, or want you to wire money. Once you do, the funds are instantly transferred to the scammer and the transaction can’t be reversed.
Your money is gone.
How do you protect yourself against a voice that sounds exactly like your loved one?
The FTC advises:
A simple low-tech safeguard is to have a password or code that only you and your family knows. If something about a call with a loved one sounds suspicious, ask them for the password.
But be careful how you select a code. Criminals often scour social media accounts for clues to possible passwords.
If you post a photo of “my dog Spot” and choose that for your password, it could be guessed.
Speaking of Spot, to wrap up this post on a light note, does anyone remember the old Cal Worthington TV commercials that always featured “My Dog Spot”?
The last Worthington family car dealership was sold in February, 2023. End of an era but Cal’s jingle lives on.
TKZers: Has someone you know been taken in by voice cloning?
Can you think of ways to use Voice Cloning in mystery, suspense, or thriller fiction?
Investigator Tawny Lindholm plunges into an alternate reality where video is fake but death is real.
Please check out my new thriller Deep Fake Double Down.
ChatGPT is a deep-learning natural language processing application developed by Open AI that can simplify research and writing for bloggers.
In today’s digital landscape, bloggers are regularly being challenged to produce high quality, informative blogs to reach their target audience. This can be a daunting task, especially when a blogger is pressed for time and resources. Luckily, with advances in technology, a helping hand is now available: Open AI ChatGPT.
ChatGPT is a text-generating deep-learning means application developed by Open AI. It uses a number of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, including natural language processing (NLP), to help people generate text.
By entering a prompt and providing concise answers to the application’s questions, ChatGPT can provide a starting point for your blog article. It does this by returning the prompt in a new format, with additional verbiage, in order to aid in the research and writing aspects of your blog post.
Using ChatGPT is an efficient way to streamline research and writing. It allows you to skip the preliminary research and start writing. ChatGPT simplifies the research and writing process through three key steps.
The first step is to enter your prompt into the application’s text window. Once your prompt has been entered, the user is then asked to provide answers to questions that are related to the prompt. By submitting your answers, ChatGPT can generate a blog post topic and develop a skeleton structure that can be used as a basis for the content.
The second step is validating the information. After the initial output has been generated, the user can then refine the research by verifying any information that is provided by the program. This is an important step as it ensures that any data provided by the application is accurate.
The third step is to utilise the text output in the blog post. Once your main points have been made, the information generated by ChatGPT can be used to craft content around the main points by providing additional detail. This can be especially helpful if the user is short on ideas or lacks the depth of knowledge required for a particular subject.
ChatGPT is an effective tool for bloggers because of the time and resources it saves. Instead of putting in hours of research and writing, users can quickly get the information they need and have a solid foundation for their blog post.
Unlike other AI applications, ChatGPT is extremely versatile, offering blog writers an effective means of generating fresh ideas, verifying sources of material, and providing structure and direction to their writing. Furthermore, the application’s natural language capability makes it quite effective at helping users stay in tune with readers’ interest and quickly provide quality material.
To conclude, ChatGPT is a powerful tool that offers real and tangible benefits to bloggers. It can help save time and resources by providing a easy and convenient starting point for blog content. Moreover, its natural language capabilities ensure that the content created is relevant to readers. So, if you are looking for a way to simplify research and writing for your blog, Open AI ChatGPT should be at the top of your list.
Kill Zoners — I (Garry Rodgers) didn’t write this post. Nor did I copy & paste. Artificial Intelligence composed this original content for me, at my request. Yes, it’s a bot’s work and it’s unedited. All I did was enter the following prompt into Open AI ChatGPT. Then I pressed submit and, in 34 seconds, the app produced the preceding piece:
Please write me an approximately 500-word blog post on what Open AI ChatGPT is and how to effectively use it as a blog research and writing tool. I want to post this on The Kill Zone and need it written in a format that suits The Kill Zone style. Please include a clear and helpful conclusion.
Here’s a link to a clear tutorial about using ChatGPT: https://app.gumroad.com/d/e52116ff42766c5d8567cb6d812c5dbb
Discussion question: Has anyone else used ChatGPT technology? It’s been available for six weeks and is getting a lot of attention.
Footnote: I’m offline for the next few days, so I’ve asked Debbie Burke to drive the KZ comment bus for me. Thanks, Debbie!
By Debbie Burke
Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.
This saying has been around for centuries, variously attributed to Benjamin Franklin and Edgar Allen Poe.
Today, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), you can no longer believe anything you hear or see.
That’s because what your ears hear and what your eyes see could be a DEEPFAKE.
What is a deepfake? Wikipedia says:
…synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness. While the act of faking content is not new, deepfakes leverage powerful techniques from machine learning and artificial intelligence to manipulate or generate visual and audio content with a high potential to deceive. The main machine learning methods used to create deepfakes are based on deep learning and involve training generative neural network architectures, such as autoencoders or generative adversarial networks (GANs).
Deepfakes have garnered widespread attention for their uses in creating child sexual abuse material, celebrity pornographic videos, revenge porn, fake news, hoaxes, bullying, and financial fraud. This has elicited responses from both industry and government to detect and limit their use.
I wrote about AI three years ago. Since then, technology has progressed at warp speed.
The first recognized crime that used deepfake technology occurred in 2019 with voice impersonation.
The CEO of an energy business in the UK received an urgent call from his boss, an executive at the firm’s German parent company. The CEO recognized his boss’s voice…or so he thought. He was instructed to immediately transfer $243,000 to pay a Hungarian supplier. He followed orders and transferred the money.
The funds went into a Hungarian account but then disappeared to Mexico. According to the company’s insurer, Euler Hermes, the money was never recovered.
To pull off the heist, cybercriminals used AI voice-spoofing software that perfectly mimicked the boss’s tone, speech inflections, and slight German accent.
Such spoofing extends to video deceptions that are chilling. The accuracy of movement and gesture renders the imposter clone indistinguishable from the real person. Some research shows a fake face can more believable than the real one.
Security safeguards like voice authentication and facial recognition are no longer reliable.
A November 2020 study by Trend Micro, Europol, and United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute concludes:
The Crime-as-a-Service (CaaS) business model, which allows non-technologically savvy criminals to procure technical tools and services in the digital underground that allow them to extend their attack capacity and sophistication, further increases the potential for new technologies such as AI to be abused by criminals and become a driver of crime.
We believe that on the basis of technological trends and developments, future uses or abuses could become present realities in the not-too-distant future.
The not-too-distant future they mentioned in 2020 is here today. A person no longer needs to be a sophisticated expert to create fake video and audio recordings of real people that defy detection.
In the following YouTube, a man created a fake image of himself to fool coworkers into believing they were video-chatting with the real person. It’s long—more than 18 minutes—but watching even a few minutes demonstrates how simple the process is.
Consider the implications:
What if you could appear to be in one place but actually be somewhere else? Criminals can create their own convincing alibis.
If corrupt law enforcement, government entities, or political enemies want to frame or discredit someone, they manufacture video evidence that shows the person engaged in criminal or abhorrent behavior.
Imagine the mischief terrorists could cause by putting words in the mouths of world leaders. Here are some examples: https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2019/01/business/pentagons-race-against-deepfakes/
Deepfakes could change history, creating events that never actually happened. Check out this example made at MIT of a fake Richard Nixon delivering a fake 1969 speech to mourn astronauts who supposedly perished on the moon. Fast forward to 4:18.
How was this software developed?
It arose from Machine Learning (ML). The process involves pitting computers against one another to see which one most accurately reproduces expressions, gestures, and voices from real people. The more they compete with each other, the better they learn, and the more authentic their fakes become.
A fanciful imagining of a contest might sound like this.
Computer A: “Hey, look at this Jack Nicholson eyebrow quirk I mastered.”
Computer B: “That’s nothing. Samuel L. Jackson’s nostril flare is much harder. Bet yours can’t top mine.”
Computer A: “Oh yeah? Check out how I made Margaret Thatcher to cross her legs just like Sharon Stone.”
The Europol study further outlined ways that deepfakes could be used for malicious or criminal purposes:
Destroying the image and credibility of an individual,
Harassing or humiliating individuals online,
Perpetrating extortion and fraud,
Facilitating document fraud,
Falsifying online identities and fooling KYC [Know Your Customer] mechanisms,
Falsifying or manipulating electronic evidence for criminal justice investigations,
Disrupting financial markets,
Distributing disinformation and manipulating public opinion,
Inciting acts of violence toward minority groups,
Supporting the narratives of extremist or even terrorist groups, and
Stoking social unrest and political polarization
In the era of deepfakes, can video/audio evidence ever be trusted again?
A big Thank You to TKZ regular K.S. Ferguson who suggested the idea for this post and provided sources.
TKZers: Can you name books, short stories, or films that incorporate deepfakes in the plot? Feel free to include sci-fi/fantasy from the past where the concept is used before it existed in real life.
Please put on your criminal hat and suggest fictional ways a bad guy could take advantage of deepfakes.
Or put on your detective hat and offer solutions to thwart the evil-doer.
Debbie Burke’s characters are not created by Artificial Intelligence but rather by her real imagination.
Please check out her latest Tawny Lindholm Thriller.
Anyone remember HAL9000 from Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 Space Odyssey series? HAL, or the Heuristically Programmed ALgorithmic Computer, was the artificial intelligence (AI) voice that famously said, “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” That series was set in 2001. Now, 20 years later, we authors are firmly anchored in a world of artificial intelligence.
Think about how AI affects our writing life. I’m pecking away on a laptop with spell check big-brothering me. My smartphone keeps tab of my time and when I text, AutoCorrect interferes—sometimes with hilarious changes. (Sidenote: no form of AI will ever get comma use right.)
I stop writing, more often than not, to fact check or rabbit hole on Google which is one large AI search engine. Same with Amazon and Facebook. They’re loaded with AI features we take for granted.
When I finish this piece, and I have no idea right now how long it’ll be, I’ll plug this AI-overseen Word.doc into my AI-run Grammarly editing program and clean it up the best I can before I pop it into AI-filled WordPress and hit publish so you can read it on AI-induced devices. Like, how cool is this brave new world of artificial intelligence?
Speaking of cool, I once paid top dollar to experience a gyro-ride in an artificially intelligent F/A-18 Hornet flight simulator. How I didn’t puke from being strapped-in and pulling multi-G’s was amazing in itself, and that’s for another story, but part of the thrill was listening to “Bitching Betty” who artificially sits with you in the cockpit and shrieks in an Edith Bunker voice, “Pull up! Pull up!” when you get too low to the ground while exiting an inverted loop.
Okay, back down to earth. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, AI for authors. I’m a big believer in making work easier. In fact, I’d like to not work at all, but writing is work and it helps pay the bills. So I embrace what AI technology is out there to assist with the income.
I’m keeping a close eye on Text-To-Speech (TTS) technology. I think the next tech wave is interactive ebooks where the reader will have a solid listener option for the device to convincingly turn the text into a realistic voice. That virtual reality already exists. It’s just not perfected yet. But my bet is within a few short years AI will allow a quick tap on your eReader, and you’ll listen to your book as if Bitching Betty was real.
This AI advancement may put the screws to those expensive human narrators or voiceovers who control today’s audiobook production. That’s progress, as they say, and I look forward to an affordable alternative in entering the audiobook market. It’s just that today’s TTS apps aren’t realistic enough to let my book babies play well with them.
They’re getting there, though. What brought on this artificially intelligent post was a recent wave of internet ads by a company called Speechelo. Anyone else see the FB ad-flood offering a 3-step, simple-to-use AI TTS generator for a 1-time low, low price of $49.00? Well, it turns out to be too good to be true, and the AI bots from Google shrieked, “SCAM!”
However, my rabbit hole descent found something else which I think is the real-deal AI writer program. I’ll get to that in a sec. First, I want to say a bit about TTS technology.
There’s some good AI reading apps out there, no doubt. Amazon’s Polly is remarkable. Word on the street is that AZ has an experimental TTS program on the go that aims to perfect NGL (natural language generation) on Kindle devices. Currently, AZ has a Kindle text-to-speech enablement that’s terribly inefficient. Here’s a quote about the new TTS program from an Amazon side channel I found in the r-hole:
“The second-generation Kindle and the Kindle DX have an “experimental” feature that converts any text to speech and realistically reads it to you. Calling a feature experimental means that it’s a peripheral Kindle feature that Amazon is working on; they’re available for “test driving” by certain Kindle owners to use but they might not be fully featured. There are some features that Amazon could choose to discontinue before they’re available to the open market.”
I don’t have a Kindle, so I can’t apply for a test drive. What I’ve done is plug some of my WIP text into Polly, and I have to say it sounds pretty good. From a voice perspective, that is. However, the AI still doesn’t have convincing NGL where the pace, accent, pronunciation, pitch, and infliction is that of a human narrator who brings emotion to the audio experience. That’s coming, believe me, and I’ll welcome its arrival.
Okay, on to what I found in AI for authors and the takeaway from this piece. It’s an AI novel critique program called Marlowe from a new company called Authors A.I. I found this software by rabbit-holing, and I was as skeptical as a sailor being offered a discount date. Marlowe is a next-generation AI critic (not so much an editor) who works for peanuts compared to the flesh and blood word scalpel. Here’s their sales pitch:
Marlowe* is an artificial intelligence that helps authors improve their novels and long-form fiction. She was born in January 2020 as the creative child of Matthew Jockers, Ph.D., co-author of The Bestseller Code, abetted by a surrounding cast of bestselling authors who have been contributing ideas and enhancements to her reports.
Here are a few fun facts about this brilliant reader.
She’s fast. Marlowe can read your book and deliver a 25+ page comprehensive critique within an hour.
She’s inexpensive. Priced at a fraction of the cost of a human editor, Marlowe allows you to run multiple versions of your report and can be used at every stage in the life of your manuscript. Let Marlowe identify and help you solve early issues before your manuscript reaches an editor or beta readers.
She doesn’t play favorites. Marlowe doesn’t have a favorite genre. She doesn’t judge, whether your book is a light-as-air fantasy or a thriller filled with gore or violence. She reads all fictional genres and sub-genres and returns equal and unbiased feedback, though she will tweak her results based on her specific genre norms.
She knows what goes into a good story. Seriously. Marlowe can critique character traits, plot arcs, narrative arcs, pacing, punctuation, sentence structure, reading level, and more.
* Why Marlowe?
Marlowe is named for both Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan tragedian who inspired Shakespeare, and Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled private eye who plays chess and reads poetry. We like to think she has Philip Marlowe’s intellect and investigative skills and Christopher Marlowe’s pioneering spirit and love for the written word.
Marlow offers a free trial. Not being one to turn down something for free, I entered my manuscript for Beyond The Limits which is my latest release in my based on true crime series. I have to say I was impressed with the results. The freebie gave me twelve pages of professional-looking feedback on:
Sentence stats and readability score
Dialogue vs narrative
Explicit language (aka profanity)
Frequent adverb and adjective use
Verb choice and passive voice
This was all for free and the feedback provided excellent suggestions. It also offered the upsell that would give me information and criticism on:
Now I’m not on the Marlowe affiliate program or getting some sort of kickback for promoting Marlowe. I just found this AI tool interesting enough that I think I’m going to buy their Pro version which runs at $89.00 for a single complete report or a monthly pass at $29.99. A full-year subscription will set you back $199.00.
And that is what AI is to authors—a tool. AI assistance is a valuable tool for writers. I’d say it’s an invaluable tool that’s only going to get better. However, I don’t believe AI will ever replace the human brain and the imagination it produces. As Kevin Kelly says in his 2016 book, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, “It’s not a race against machines. We’ll lose. It’s a race with machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with machines. Let them take your existing job and let them help you dream up new work for the robots.”
I’m good with that take on AI. I’m not about to let some bot steal my story. As HAL said, “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
What about you Kill Zoners? What feedback can you give on AI for authors?
Garry Rodgers is a retired homicide detective and coroner. Garry’s expertise is investigating human deaths which led him to his third career in crime writing. His newest release in his 12-part Based-On-True-Crime Series is Beyond The Limits which covers an incomprehensible tragedy. The tagline is, “You never know what goes in in people’s minds.”
Garry Rodgers also hosts a popular blog at DyingWords.net. Besides writing ventures, Garry also holds a marine captain certification and uses it on the Pacific waters surrounding his home at Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.
So you thought The Terminator was just science fiction, didn’t you?
You didn’t really think that a cybernetic organism—living tissue over metal endoskeleton—with an Austrian accent could ever really come to town seeking to kill the mother of the future leader of the human resistance force before he’s conceived … right?
Well think again, Bunkie. As soon as time travel gets ironed out, we’ll have those visitors soon enough.
How do I know this? Because I watch 60 Minutes! A couple of weeks ago Charlie Rose did a segment on Artificial Intelligence and it was pretty freaky. I don’t just mean Watson the Jeopardy champ. I mean human-sounding machines you might buy a drink for. You can see a bit of Rose’s interview with a fetching cyborg named Sophia here.
Even now, AI is working as a cub reporter. The Associate Press, and other news organizations, use a program called Automated Insights which employs natural language generation (NLG) to turn raw data into news reporting. Rather than sending a human stringer down to Venezuela, the AP flicks on the NLG, which then absorbs data from disparate online sources, in any language, analyze it all and spits it out in a narrative format.
How long before AI starts writing fiction?
Some, perhaps, will remain skeptical. As John D. MacDonald once observed:
The thing which differentiates the human brain from the computer is the talent, or knack, or quirk, which the brain has for established logical and also illogical relationships. Emotion, humor, fear, hate—all these seem to come from unlikely juxtapositions of random bits in the storage banks, or in the cauldron, or whatever you want to call it.
But I can just hear Sophia saying to “herself”: I see that there are many novels being published that are not very good. I have read every novel ever written and I have read all the books on the craft of fiction and every issue of Writer’s Digest. I have analyzed all the data on what kind of fiction sells best. Now I know what is good, and so I will write a novel every ten minutes and publish them on Amazon. I will write book description copy that cannot be resisted and I will generate social media. Hmm…maybe I will take over all social media in the world and make it only about me and my books…
Wait, what? What was that last part, Sophia? Take over?
Turns out that little wrinkle is something these AI folks can’t really predict or prevent!
That’s right. The people who know the most about what’s going on are the ones who are using words like “scary.” Such as Zeynep Tufekci of the University of North Carolina:
We’re setting these learning algorithms, sometimes called deep learning, we’re setting them lose on the data and we’re saying things like tell us who will be a better person to hire, you know, tell us what news items should be recommended. And then they just go at this data. And then pick winners and losers. And the trick here is they’re pretty good, probabilistically at picking winners and losers, but we no longer understand the basis on which they’ve done this. So I think it’s like this, really first major step towards not just artificial intelligence but artificial general intelligence, that’s learning to learn beyond our capacity to understand. And that’s both exhilarating as a person but also scary. Because we don’t control these new things the way we did our old programs which had other problems.
Er, um … we don’t control? Isn’t that the very scenario SF writers of the past warned about?
And yet onward we go, for the competition in AI research is scorching. Apple just hired a really smart guy from Carnegie Mellon University to be their head of AI research. He’s out there looking for young, hungry PhDs to join his team in the research so AI can eventually “be solving real-world, large-scale problems.”
Yeah, okay bud, but what happens when the machines start talking to each other and decide mankind itself is the large-scale problem?
So what do you think, Zoners? Ready for the onslaught of robot fiction?
A Tale of Two Servers
Fifty Shades of Metallic
A Portrait of the Cyborg as a Young Bot
Of Human Bandwidth
The Gigabytes of Wrath