Coming soon to a robocall near you.

For Debt About It

The rise of AI coincides with all-time debt highs — and one startup is looking use an AI-powered goon to shake folks down for cash faster than a human debt collector ever could.

As Vice reports, an outfit called Skit.AI is looking to usher in a "new era of debt collections" with an AI-powered voice agent that does just that, making millions of outbound collections calls a week.

A sort of machine learning answer to robocalling, Skit and its competitors offer, in essence, the same basic promise that all other companies jumping on the AI bandwagon claim to provide: the ability to do more menial tasks than humans, more efficiently and at a significantly cheaper cost.

"It is hard to find a skilled collector, and having a consistent team that can scale up when needed has been extremely challenging," a barf-worthy Skit blog post reads. "But instant scalability with Digital Collection Agents, the dependence on human collectors goes down substantially. The end-to-end automation of many calls means that human agents are no longer required to do those calls. So a collector can manage a larger portfolio with a smaller or the same team of agents."

Insult to Injury

In reality, of course, the still-experimental nature of chatbots means that these sorts of AI-based services are basically being beta tested in real-time, often resulting in failure or being regulated out of existence.

As Timnit Gebru of the Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR) told Vice, there's an additional layer of sleaze with AI debt collection given the nature of the business this software is meant to disrupt.

"We know that there are so many biases that these [large language model]-based systems have, encoding hegemonic and stereotypical views," Gebru said, pointing to a 2021 paper on the topic she coauthored. "The fact that we don't even know what they're doing and they're not required to tell us is also incredibly concerning."

Debt collection has been demonstrated to target Black communities at greater rates than their white counterparts, Vice notes, and debt itself arguably mires people in poverty.

Adding AI into that mix brings a whole different level of myopia to an already-disgusting business, and anyone who's ever been on the other end of a debtor's call knows that this is the last thing one wants or needs when placed in that situation.

More on chatbot dystopia: CNET Staff Unionize, Saying AI Use "Threatens Our Jobs and Reputations"

Share This Article