I grew up reading science fiction from H.G. Wells, Isac Asimov, and others that foretold the collision course of humanity and technology. I finally experienced it personally this week. Trying to get information online, I partially completed a financial inquiry before bailing out when my social security number was requested.

As soon as I left the site, my cellphone went off like an artillery bombardment. I estimate I received more than 20 calls in 5 minutes. By 10 o’clock that night, it had reached around 50 calls and 10 or 15 voicemails, and it continues even today. It turns out that even an abandoned inquiry unleashed bots from 10 or more companies that just keep calling.

Although some might argue a few phone calls from a mindless automation is a minor issue, I believe it illustrates a fundamental and scary change in our lives where some of our worse human instincts can be multiplied by the thousands by the use of nearly unfettered, no conscience bots. Where the nuisance and potential harm of human overreach was once limited by human physical constraints, it can now be multiplied by millions of bots that can touch, confound and even destroy anyone with a phone or bank account.

This technology has leaped ahead without any constraints from our laws and could now be a threat to the data flow that is the bedrock of our modern society. Invisible, capable of piercing almost any wall, moving at the speed of light, and able to clone itself millions of times in seconds, bots have every chance of becoming the supervillain that humanity has always feared. I don’t see any superheroes coming to our aide, so we had better do something ourselves, including calling our representatives.

Randy R. Irvin