4 Innovative Ways People Are Fighting Our Future Tech Overlords
I remember being younger and infuriated by my parents’ fear of technology. In my mind, their reluctance to share personal information was simply a hurdle between me and being able to buy Magic the Gathering singles off strangers on the internet. Computers were cool and my friend! Sites were all secure, because they said so!
Now, I’m not going to go as far as saying Boomers are right about technology, because that would require at least base knowledge of why a web browser and “the internet” are two different things. I will admit, however, that we probably would have been better off adopting some level of their panic. Now, we’re all nipple-deep in a mass of tech companies that want nothing more than our precious data and maybe even our DNA. It’s gone too far for “being careful” to be a viable protection, so people have had to go on the offensive in order to stop them from going full SkyNet.
Here are four ways lowly, inefficient humans are fighting back against our robot overlords…
The world of A.I. art, at even the most basic level, is an understandable firestorm. Probably because it’s a fucking nightmare. I’m not sure why “painting” was an activity that tech shitheads thought people were tired of doing. It feels like maybe “creative expression” should have been lower than “folding laundry” or “doing taxes” on the list of things we’d like to remove from day-to-day life.
Even worse is the fact that, though they like to act like it’s the technological equivalent of advanced A.I. being able to think and create, a virtual robot holding a paintbrush, imagining a version of Joe Biden that’s covered in weird teats, it’s basically glorified image blending. The fact is, these images are very clearly not coming from scratch. Ask where they actually are coming from, and suddenly the same people that can’t wait to talk your ear off about A.I. suddenly get mealy-mouthed. Probably because they know it’s a minefield.
Leaks showing that these futurists ironically lack the foresight not to discuss likely large-scale copyright infringement on Discord and store records of it on Google Docs have confirmed that artists should be concerned. It’s also clear that reactive measures, which involve the famously slow legal system, aren’t enough. That’s why a team at the University of Chicago has developed “Glaze,” a system that’s able to make visual art confusing and unreadable to A.I. scrapers without noticeable changes to the human eye. I’m not nearly smart enough to figure out exactly how, but they suggest thinking about it as if there’s an ultraviolet or ultrasonic frequency layered over the art, that robots can see but humans can’t.
Anti-Facial Recognition Fashion
Speaking of visual representations linked to your identity that you might want to protect, how about your face? The advancement of facial recognition technology is fairly terrifying, even though they’ve done their damnedest to link it to convenience. Your phone can unlock itself with your face! Cool! Now imagine your phone taped to a light pole, aimed at a crowd, looking for your face. Less cool!
It’s come far enough that it’s not always particularly clear to us what’s being used as the identifying feature, as anyone who’s been surprised by a phone unlocking despite a generous dose of facial accessories. When COVID demanded widespread mask use, Apple proudly declared their phone could identify you while you’re wearing a mask! Cool, I bet the police state isn’t standing behind them, rock hard, holding a hard drive full of protest footage!
Anti-identification fashion, then, has had to go a little further. Especially if it wants you to still be recognizable to actual humans, and not popping on a Rorschach-style covering every day before you leave the house. One of the coolest — and science-backed — strategies is what looks like a pair of safety glasses studded with near-infrared lighting. Developed in Japan by professors Isao Echizen and Seiichi Gohshi, the glasses create what amount to a type of extreme glare, but only to cameras and not to the human eye.
Attribute-Based Encryption Fighting Facial Recognition
Of course, not everybody might want to walk outside rocking surveillance protection that, by necessity, is less than subtle. A pair of glasses covered in lights make tinfoil hats seem like a tasteful huggie hoop. In which case, we’ve got to go instead to the camera systems themselves. Along those lines, Attribute-Based Encryption, or ABE, encrypts certain features in digital footage and images. It uses artificial intelligence to locate in real-time features like faces, license plates and other information that could be for identification and encrypt them on things like security camera footage. See, there are useful applications of A.I., they’re just less popular because they don’t enable widespread corporate layoffs.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for commercial backing, fellas! Next time, invent software that tells you if a worker is looking at their phone!
Beating the Shit Out of Robots
Our last path to humanity’s continued survival is one that, legally, we do not endorse. Luckily, we don’t have to, because everybody’s lizard brains are already on the job. The fact is, no matter how big and round you make their fake eyes, a lot of people really don’t like a robot looking at them.
Food delivery robots have been beaten to piles of bolts and robbed. A robot meant to hitchhike across the U.S. made it all the way from Boston to Philadelphia before being beheaded. New York, looking for any possible way to spend less than $155 million on police overtime to patrol the subway, is debuting a new surveillance robot. Well, at least that’s what they’re calling it. I would describe it as a “spray-paint magnet on wheels.”
Maybe the next big development in robotics is designing one that doesn’t look fun to kick.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.