Campus Clash: College Students Go to War Over AI Dominance

Rival tools developed by students are trying to hide and uncover something crucial.

People of a certain advanced age may remember this catchy slogan about authenticity: Is it live, or is it Memorex?

In the quaint days of cassette recordings, signal-to-noise ratios and tape hiss, the phrase encapsulated the goal of the company to record sound indistinguishable from the real thing.

Oh that life were still so simple.

The onslaught of artificial intelligence tools is accelerating, bringing with it a radical reworking of just what is authentic and trustworthy and even human.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has called the technology “as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the internet and the mobile phone.”

And as quickly as AI is developing, people are trying to come up with tools to detect its use.

We Need to Know

Part of the impetus comes from one of the first use cases for AI: academic cheating.

What? You forgot to research and write that term paper? No problem, just give Chat GPT a prompt on what it’s about and how long it should be and you’ll be up and running in no time.

That was great — for about two seconds — until some sharp college senior at Princeton came up with an app to detect the tell-tale signs of a document written using AI. The tool, called GPT Zero, examines texts for signs of machine writing.

Edward Tian released an early version in January arguing in a series of tweets that “we as humans deserve to know!”

The folks at OpenAI, which created Chat GPT, followed just weeks later with their own “classifier to distinguish between text written by a human and text written by AIs from a variety of providers.”

Among the reasons they see it as necessary are people “running automated misinformation campaigns, using AI tools for academic dishonesty, and positioning an AI chatbot as a human.”

Challenge Accepted 

But as every action has an equal and opposite reaction, another sharp student, this time at Stanford, has come up with a tool to hide the use of artificial intelligence in writing.

Soham Govande just released it this month.

“Launching HideGPT! It completely masks the fingerprint of GPT on any piece of text (up to 5,000 words!) Write essays with AI without getting caught,” Govande wrote in a tweet.  

Of course it’s not just over-imbibing college students who could use the tool. Govande noted in a tweet that “Google downlinks blog posts written by AI,” suggesting a real world and potentially lucrative use case.

In the meantime, students may want to consider asking Chat GPT to throw in a few misspellings and extra apostrophes to give their “work: a more human touch.

As to which student’s tool will win in the end, time will tell. But in one potentially crucial test, the two apparently met in person without creating a mater-anti-mater cancellation. 

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