Introducing the Slickest Con Artist of All Time
Or 10 tweets about ChatGPT
The fast-talking hero of the TV show Sneaky Pete hates it when he’s called a con man.
“I’m not a con man,” he insists, “I’m a confidence man.” And that’s actually how the term originated—as “confidence man.” The scam only works because of that happy and confident relationship between criminal and victim.
“I give them confidence,” Pete explains. “They give me money.”
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In the ultimate con, victims don’t even know they’ve been conned. They really think they’re sending cash to some gorgeous babe in Moscow, or bought a genuine Rolex, or whatever.
The confidence game is a real art—more than just cheating or lying. Those are boring and pathetic vices by comparison. A con job requires something grander, a fast-talking sureness that always seems to be right, even when it’s dead wrong.
If you’re caught in a lie, you just build a bigger lie to hide it.
Which brings us to the subject of ChatGPT, the AI bot that’s the hottest thing in tech right now.
Judging by my Twitter feed, ChatGPT is hotter than Wordle and Taylor Swift combined.
It’s even hotter than its predecessor Sam Bankman-Fried, who was doing something similar 12 months ago. ChatGPT is just better than SamFTX in every way. It can’t even be extradited—because it’s just a bot.
People love it. People have confidence in it.
They want to use it for everything—legal work, medical advice, term papers, or even writing Substack columns. If I believed half of what I heard about ChatGPT, I could let it take over The Honest Broker, while I sit on the beach drinking margaritas and searching for my lost shaker of salt.
But that’s exactly what the confidence artist always does. Which is:
You give people what they ask for.
You don’t worry whether it’s true or not—because ethical scruples aren’t part of your job description.
If you get caught in a lie, you serve up another lie.
You always act sure of yourself—because your confidence is what seals the deal.
Am I exaggerating? Is the hottest AI chatbot in the world really doing this?
Instead of offering up my opinions on this, I’ll just share some tweets from knowledgeable observers who are starting to suspect the con.
I’ll let you decide for yourself whether this measures up to a confidence game.
My conclusion isn’t just that ChatGPT is another con game—it’s the biggest one of them all. Microsoft even wants to hand over its entire search engine to this AI bot. Premium subscriptions are already available.
Some of you will tell me that I’m making a hasty judgment. ChatGPT will get better, they say. It will get smarter.
That’s exactly what I’m afraid of. The ethics code should have been inserted at the ground level—but it wasn’t. At this point, incremental improvements only make it better at its confidence game.
Technology of this sort is designed to be a con—if the ancient Romans had invented ChatGPT, it would have told them that it’s cool to conquer barbarians and sacrifice slaughtered bulls to the god Jupiter. Tech like this—truly made in the image of its human creator—can only feeds back what it learns from us. So we shouldn’t be surprised if ChatGPT soaks up all the crap on the Internet, and compresses it into slick-talking crap of a few sentences.
The slickness of the delivery is its major achievement. Gosh, it sounds so convincing, even when it’s so wrong.And that’s precisely how you know it’s a confidence game.
But in one way, it’s all so fitting. The con artist always gives people exactly what they want. And in a post-truth society, nobody does this better than AI. So I predict great things for ChatGPT—at least in economic terms. It will certainly live up to Sneaky Pete’s standards:
“I give people confidence. They give me money.”
ChatGPT demonstrates what language skills that are divorced from any knowledge of the world looks like. It reminds me of precocious young people who can say things they have heard that seem appropriate, but don't really understand what they are saying.
"'I’m a confidence man.” And that’s actually how the term originated—as 'confidence man.'"
I've heard this for years, but never the second half "I give them confidence". I always assumed it meant the person doing conning, but this makes so much more sense... and explains why it rarely works on me. lol
Also: I've recently seen some screenshots of ChatGPT being asked to write a poem about a particular politician and it refused on the grounds that "orange man bad" ... but didn't waste a second writing one praising the current White House resident, who is arguably even more problematic. I'm not fan of orange man, the fact that AI has been trained to react this way should be of major concern to everyone.