Jan 31, 2024, 12:25 AM
In a world where everyone and everything is data, with your cell phone spying on you while you wash in zebra print pajamas and pine-scented body wash, the landscape of cybersecurity feels like a bad Christmas panto. In the new act of this circus, computer scientists at the University of Chicago have decided that invisibility cloaks are too 21st century. Instead, they've decided to fight back against AI scraping with free software that does the impossible: it turns cows into purses.
Their first software, known as Glaze, functions like a artist suffering from an existential crisis. It distorts AI vision with needless details — a classic misdirection tactic found in every spy's Handbook. Just like a master of disguise, Glaze reinterprets brush strokes and colors to make virtually invisible to AI algorithms the artistic style of a painting. To the human eye, it's still a piece of art; to AI, it's a Brechtian play where the set keeps changing with each gaze.
The University of Chicago's second software, Nightshade, is the gremlin of this digital world. More aggressive than its sibling Glaze, it makes the AI see things that aren’t there. For instance, where humans see a cow lounging in a field, AI sees a decidedly non-bovine accessory — a large leather purse plopped in the grass.
To the bewildered developer who instructed the AI to generate an image of a flying cow, the result would shockingly be a purse navigating the stratosphere. The Chicago team explains, "You may crop it, resample it, compress it, smooth out pixels, or add noise, the poison stays intact. You could take screenshots, or even snap a picture of the displayed image on a monitor, the effects remain. Again, this is not some sort of cryptic watermark or secret text, and it's nothing brittle."
AI developers have reacted to Glaze and Nightshade with all the joy of someone discovering they've sat on a whoopee cushion during a first date. Their claim? Creating such software is akin to developing a harmful virus. The accusations are as staggering as the notion of a flying purse. While the world waits with bated breath for the next move in this digital chess game, the real winners are those of us who ever doubted their parents' claim that cows couldn’t fly. Turns out, they were right. They just didn't consider the likelihood of flying purses.
This is AI generated satire and is not intended to be taken seriously.