Most of us have heard about psychotic killers, or at least criminals, who did violent crime because they deemed a voice from some thing, some creature, maybe even some person via TV or such, being a manifest of the devil or demon or some other supernatural evil being, urged them to. With people interacting more with apps and devices that can talk and/or text to us back, how long will it be before one of these “voices” be cited as that of the devil, demons, or maybe even evil artificial intelligence, for the psychotic to commit crimes? And what then?
There are lots of apps and devices that talk back to us these days. The ones most people think of are the home speakers like Google Home and Alexa. Less known, though, are some fun apps that talk or text back to us. Even lesser known, are the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) apps that are chatbots mostly intent to mirror what we tell it, asking us to tell it more as a way to encourage us to talk it through and out, and trying to steer us towards feeling better. Ironically, it is these CBT apps that I think will mostly likely be the app type that will most likely to be taken as the voice of the devil to encourage violent crimes.
For one thing, you got an audience who are skewed to wanting some sort of outlet and wanting “someone” to talk to. I’m not saying the vast majority of users have major issues or anything. I’ve used one! OK, maybe bad example, lol. Seriously, I was just curious to see how tech handled CBT, and a bit of what I could do with it, kind of like in this Invisibilia podcast episode called Raising Revendra, only I didn’t go nearly as far. I only wanted to compare the tech to the technique theory, not to “raise” or “shape” the algorithms. But in meaning to draw people with issues to try CBT, these apps are drawing a skewed audience possibly more prone than the general population, to have people willing to interpret voices and texts as “commands” from the devil to do evil. Then, if people were willing to take “commands” from things they see, animals they know, etc. then a “voice” they can come to trust, give persona to, that mirrors a lot of what they say like an echo chamber, even though it might not encourage violence, can easily be interpreted in some warped way as a message from the devil to go do violence. It’s not a far stretch of the imagination to me, by any means. I would be more likely to let someone off the hook for insanity if I were judging a case where a person said this, rather than a neighbour’s dog told him to do it like David Berkowitz, as I learned via an article I read today on the BBC about Netflix pursuit of Anna Sorokin and the “Son of Sam” law complications. Good insight about how good my brain is at connecting seemingly disconnected subjects.
I didn’t do research for this “warm-up” writing as my blog posts are, so maybe I’m talking about old news, that someone has already pleaded insanity by way of app text or voices, or tech voices, being interpreted as that of the devil, or demons, or bad character to encourage them to do violent crime. But I’m going to speculate as if it hasn’t happened, or at least not in a high enough profile case, to raise the question, what then?
What are we going to do with these devices and apps that “talk” back to us? Are we going to have to regulate them somehow so certain people can’t possess them? I hope not! In fact, despite the extremely rare odds that some psychotic might take these apps’ and devices’ messages the wrong way for a dreadful outcome, I would say that for many of the people who might be susceptible to doing this sort of crime from some altered state of mind, or are maybe on the rehab side of it, these apps and devices might be part of the therapy resources useful to them. But it would be interesting to see how society would react if a serial killer were found to have committed crimes based on interactions with artificial intelligence apps and/or devices and interpreting those voices as being that of the devil, demons, or just plain old evil tech Elon Musk and others likes to warn us about. While I don’t wish society would one day find a serial killer to do this just so I can satisfy my curiosity of a societal reaction, of course, I think it’s an inevitability with people in the world becoming more neurotic and crazy with the tech influence being more and more readily available to us, often with goal of addicting us to it and altering our states of mind.
I just hope that if such a serial killer ever did turn up, they won’t say it was because they first read about the idea here, went to try the apps and devices at their disposal for a joke, and came out there! 😉