Detecting ChatGPT and AI-Generated Text in School Papers

The race is on to develop tools and techniques that can detect AI-generated copy. Educators and institutions of higher ed are especially vulnerable to the throes of machine-generated content. Now, a group of researchers at Stanford may be one step closer to a useful solution.

The use of large language models (LLMs) is skyrocketing, and with good reason; it’s really good …

Recently, a team of researchers at Stanford proposed a new method called DetectGPT, which aims to be among the first tools to combat generated text in higher education. The method is based around the idea that text generated by LLMs typically hover around specific regions of the negative curvature regions of the model’s log probability function. Through this insight, the team developed a new barometer for judging if text is machine-generated which doesn’t rely on training an AI or collecting large datasets to compare the text against. We can only guess this means human written text occupies positive curvature regions, but the source is not clear on this.

This method, called “zero-shot”, allows DetectGPT to detect machine written text without any knowledge of the AI that was used to generate it. It operates in stark contrast to other methods which require training ‘classifiers’ and datasets of real and generated passages.

The team tested DetectGPT on a dataset of fake news articles (presumably anything that came out of CNET over the last year) and it outperformed other zero-shot methods for detecting machine-generated text. Specifically, they found that DetectGPT improved the detection of fake news articles generated by 20B parameter GPT-NeoX from 0.81 AUROC for the strongest zero-shot baseline to 0.95 AUROC for DetectGPT. Honestly, this is all French to me, but it purports a substantial improvement in detection performance and suggests that DetectGPT may be a promising way to scrutinize machine-generated text moving forward.

Beware the ‘Storification’ of the Internet

The Atlantic:

There is a growing trend in American culture of what the literary theorist Peter Brooks calls “storification.” Since the turn of the millennium, he argues in his new book, Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative, we’ve relied too heavily on storytelling conventions to understand the world around us, which has resulted in a “narrative takeover of reality” that affects nearly every form of communication—including the way doctors interact with patients, how financial reports are written, and the branding that corporations use to present themselves to consumers. Meanwhile, other modes of expression, interpretation, and comprehension, such as analysis and argument, have fallen to the wayside.

The danger of this arises when the public fails to understand that many of these stories are constructed through deliberate choices and omissions. Enron, for instance, duped people because it was “built uniquely on stories—fictions, in fact … that generated stories of impending great wealth,” Brooks writes. Other recent scams, like those pulled off by Purdue Pharma, NXIVM, and Anna Delvey, succeeded because people fell for tales the perpetrators spun. In other words, we could all benefit from a lesson in close reading and a dose of skepticism.

The End of the iPod

After more than 20 years, one of the most iconic devices of all time is no more:

Over the years, Apple introduced multiple iterations of the iPod, including iPod mini, multiple versions of the iPod nano, the iPod shuffle, and the iPod touch ... Apple said that it is discontinuing the iPod because the iPod's capabilities have been built into the entire Apple product lineup, from the Mac to the iPhone to the Apple Watch.

My favorite iPod was the fourth generation model, released in 2004.

Apple’s Newsroom posts a farewell:

Music has always been part of our core at Apple, and bringing it to hundreds of millions of users in the way iPod did impacted more than just the music industry — it also redefined how music is discovered, listened to, and shared,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Today, the spirit of iPod lives on. We’ve integrated an incredible music experience across all of our products, from the iPhone to the Apple Watch to HomePod mini, and across Mac, iPad, and Apple TV. And Apple Music delivers industry-leading sound quality with support for spatial audio — there’s no better way to enjoy, discover, and experience music.

For those who missed it, it’s hard to describe how exciting this product line was for pre-iPhone era Apple fans. It truly changed the music buying and listening experience.

The Web is (Still) Almost Entirely Inaccessible to People with Disabilities

People with disabilities face limitations and obstacles online that mirror those in the “real” world prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Since 1990 the ADA has guaranteed – among many things – that people with disabilities have access to public buildings, facilities and transit vehicles, reasonable workplace accommodations, and access to sign language interpreters and “other auxiliary aids” in hospitals and clinical settings. 

Today, online experiences for users with certain visual or physical impairments range from infuriating and disorganized to entirely off limits and exclusionary. Most websites, for example, aren’t built or organized to interface well with screen readers, magnification devices, and other tools that assist readers with visual impairments.

In a step forward, more than 170 disability organizations called for the Department of Justice to finalize rules for online accessibility, a process that started in 2012 before being withdrawn in 2012: 

In today’s letter, addressed to assistant attorney general Kristen Clarke, the signees urged “the Department of Justice to maintain this rulemaking process as a priority and finalize a rule by the end of the current administration.” It states that while the DoJ has held that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) includes websites and other technologies critical to accessing a business’ services, it has “failed to define when and how they should be accessible.”

Efforts to come up with these rules have ebbed and flowed. The letter noted that “In 2018, the Department reconfirmed its position that the ADA applies to the internet but never completed rulemakings that were begun in 2010 under Titles II and III of the ADA and withdrawn in 2017.”

The result is an online world where people with disabilities struggle to get their needs met. According to WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind)about 97 percent of the 1 million pages evaluated had WCAG 2 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) failures. These issues ranged from using low contrast text and missing form input labels to empty buttons and missing alt text for images.

Compliance with Section 508 is already a very, very big deal to developers and content strategists in the public sector. I’d like to see the same rules apply much, much more widely.

The Secret History of the First Real Smartphone 

via The Verge:

In 1998, Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins quit Palm, a company they’d founded, to begin a new one: Handspring. They had a simple goal in mind: to eventually create the smartphone. Years before any of the technology was actually ready, their tiny startup began laying the necessary groundwork for what would become the Treo.

In Springboard: the secret history of the first real smartphone, we document the history of Handspring, from its dramatic beginnings to its tragic end. Along the way, we hear from five of the key players who tried to invent the modern smartphone years before the technology world was ready for it. It’s a story that interweaves the dotcom crash, technological innovations, wireless carrier resistance, and much more.

Too Many People Still Use Windows XP

Windows XP, which turned 21 last month and has been unsupported since 2014, still runs on an alarmingly high number of PCs worldwide, including many in government.

via BleepingComputer:

So, why are some systems still using the outdated XP version?

The first category of systems that are still using Windows XP is those belonging to public sectors, known for their crawling upgrade speeds and hesitancy to use new technologies.

For many public entities, the bureaucracy of approving new system license purchases, upgrading hardware, and training the entire public sector is too complicated and costly.

The compatibility of custom-made 32-bit software tools is another crucial reason for still seeing XP in many places like industrial environments, hospitals, etc.

In many cases, there are no newer versions of these critical tools, or companies need to pay a lot of money to have them ported to new systems.

Then there’s the category of people who are using hardware that is too old and weak to run a newer Windows version properly, and they see no good reason to replace something that is still (technically) working.

Many users, including some in government, value ease and tradition over security … often to the detriment of public stakeholders.

Time Machine vs Migration Assistant

I spent much of last weekend restoring my father-in-law’s MacBook Pro, which had stopped receiving updates and was acting out in strange ways following a small-town repair tech’s ill-fated attempt to service it. 

The situation called for a complete erase and reinstall of macOS, followed by a series of updates to bring the machine current with macOS Big Sur. 

Backing up and restoring a Mac has gotten a lot easier thanks to iCloud, but there may be occasions when you need to restore files, settings and media from a backup drive. 

Migration Assistant 

Migration Assistant is an app that lives in the macOS Utilities folder. 

Migration Assistant is more complicated than other backup methods since it requires you to already be on a Mac that has been set up, and accordingly, already on a new user account. Long story short, it can be complicated to migrate an “old” user account over to a “new” account. Migration can easily unravel, resulting in duplicated or missing files and accounts. Migration Assistant has always been complicated and frustrating tool for me.

Time Machine 

Time Machine is Apple’s go-to backup and snapshot app that provides a smoother experience. Simply use Time Machine for regular backups, including just before you want to restore your Mac. Once backed up, erase and update your Mac to the latest OS, then plug in the external drive associated with your Time Machine backup and select while files, profiles and settings you want.

It couldn’t be any easier. 

Bradley Koda, the Parts Seller Keeping Atari Machines Alive

Via Vice:

Among Atari fans, Best is almost as famous for ignoring and blacklisting badly behaved customers as it is for selling Atari parts. A first attempt to buy from Best Electronics is a sink-or-swim proposition: learn the rules, or accept your fate.

Every purchase from Best Electronics requires personal interaction with Koda. Although he’s fond of using the editorial “we,” he is a one-man operation, and he doesn’t believe in automation. “We prefer to talk, Via E-Mail, Phone or E-FAX to our Atari customers, and make sure you getting the Right Atari Replacement Parts / Items the first time,” he explains on the Best website, in his inimitable prose style.

Koda is a monopolist, of a sort, but he’s no Jeff Bezos. Best Electronics has no virtual shopping cart, or any other Amazon-esque conveniences. The store’s website looks the same as it has since the early 2000s: it’s a lengthy, multicoloured text scroll, as if Jack Kerouac quit the novel-writing business (but not the benzedrine) and started typing about Atari.