Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

January 11, 2021

Do young people not care about privacy because they grew up sharing personal information?

Filed under: My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:03 PM

I don’t agree with statement, though there are many proponents to abolishing privacy online. Unfortunately, over the years we have been trained to give personal information in order to use services online and this is based on the principle that our data has no value and if we have nothing to hide we should be ok to share data online. This is a fallacy.

Having privacy is essential to us as humans because it gives us a judgment free space where we can be ourselves without worrying about what others might think. This allows us to explore unpopular ideas without worry or fear. Plus it is not just people who have unpopular ideas that need privacy. There is a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t want to share with everyone even if it’s nothing illegal or unpopular such as details about my health or personal finances. Privacy doesn’t mean that we don’t want to share information, it just means that I get to choose who has access to data about me.

In certain scenarios privacy helps protect us physically from stalkers or people who mean us harm, think fanatic fans or people fleeing an abusive relationship. Such people would not want their physical location broadcast to the world. There was a case a few months ago where a fan used a photo published by a star to locate her apartment and assaulted her at her apartment. This was a breach of privacy of the star and caused major distress to her. Now imagine if we could immediately find where anyone in the world is located at a given time, this will allow us to determine so much other data about that person such as their health information (if they are visiting a cardiac doctor every week, there is a high probability they are suffering from a hear problem). A few years ago Uber analyzed data from the rides people were taking using it’s service and used that to figure out who was having an affair with whom based on the rides they took and the location they were dropped. It was quite a scandal when it came out and now imagine someone taking this information and blackmailing people.

With the amount of information that we are giving to websites and companies both voluntarily and involuntarily privacy is becoming harder to maintain but that doesn’t mean that we give up and let companies do whatever they want with our data. If we do that then be prepared to have every aspect of your life dissected and analyzed for profit.

Too many people state that they have nothing to hide and have no problems with having their information public. I challenge them to stay in a house completely made of glass (including the bathrooms) and have a bot that publishes all emails/messages/transcripts from their calls publicly. I can bet there won’t be any takers. as everyone has something they wouldn’t want to be public knowledge.

– Suramya

January 10, 2021

What are the ethical obligations of a Computer professional?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:58 PM

This is a question that is getting a lot of attention right now. A lot of people say that Technologists shouldn’t be political or worry about how their tech being used but I believe that it is wrong. This school of thought comes from when historically people working on computers were not impacting any real-world events/consequences. E.g. if a computer crashed or was hacked it might not have a life & death impact. Now with everything connected to each other including devices that effect the physical world that is not the case. So if there is a major flaw in a control system of a car that allows it to be hacked then it can be used to crash a car or stop it in the middle of the road causing a pileup. If there is a vulnerability found in a pace maker then it can be used to kill people.

Due to this all our work needs to take in account all three scenarios. We can’t just create a system that causes extensive harm and claim that it was done because “This is what I was told to do” is not a valid justification for doing something that is used to harm people/communities. Some claim that our job is to help our companies & clients make money and leave the ethics at home but it is not the correct way to look at things.

To take an example, what if I develop hacks that allowed governments to spy on terrorists undetected by monitoring their phones & computers? That seems like a win-win for all correct?I am helping stop terrorists and keeping the world safe. What else do we need? Now what if those same hacks were repurposed by repressive regimes to spy on their dissidents? It shows that everything we do and work on, has consequences some of which are intended & some are not.

In another example, if I figure out a way to remotely identify anyone even when they are masked, then before I release the software I also need to think of how else the software might be used. Will it be used to target protestors or political dissidents? We need to figure out what other uses it might have and then take a call.

Unfortunately there is no clear answer or a checklist that we can follow to make the correct decision. End of the day we need to make a decision and then live with the consequences.

– Suramya

January 9, 2021

Online Afterlives: Chatting with the dead

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 2:56 PM

Dealing with death is something that everyone struggles with and with the digital aspects of life becoming more and more prevalent there are many ways folks try to keep the memory of their loved ones accessible. There are options in major social media sites to memorialize an account after the owner passes away, others use personal websites to memorialize their loved ones. With advances in technology there is now a new way to remember your loved ones, using AI and machine learning there are companies that allow you to ‘chat’ with your loved ones even after they have died. Basically these sites train a machine learning model using existing communication, emails, chats, postings etc to give you the impression that you are chatting with a dead person.

In theory this is very interesting and I like the use of technology to ease the sense of loss from a death. However, my concern is that this can quickly become a crutch and for people who are having a hard time letting go, this can make things even more complicated. In the end this is a chat-bot pretending to be a person, although to be fair the bot is explicit in telling people that it is a bot. For example when asked where they were the bot responded: “As a bot I suppose I exist somewhere on a computer server in San Francisco. And also, I suppose, in the minds of people who chat with me.”

Overall I am not sure how I feel about the tech. It is both good and creepy at the same time. Extrapolating into the future we can see that soon it would be possible to create a virtual reality (VR) representation of a person that can interact with people after the original person dies. All you would need is data and enough processing power to create a model of how a person behaves. There was a TV show that I saw a while ago where dead people lived on as online avatars and would still interact with their loved ones but I can’t remember the name but it was an interesting concept.

What do you think?

Source: Popsci.com: Old text messages are letting people chat with the dead

– Suramya

January 8, 2021

Idiot threatens to kill co-worker because his friend request wasn’t accepted

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 4:52 PM

A while ago I had posted about the most bizarre reaction I had seen from someone whose friend request I had not responded to quickly (I don’t check FB very often). I am happy to say that it was nothing like the reaction this person from North Dakota, US got. Apparently 29 year old Caleb Burczyk decided that being friends with his ex-coworker was so important that Caleb threatened to kill them if his request wasn’t accepted. To top things off, this moron actually went over to their house and kicked in the front door while getting caught on camera doing so just because he couldn’t take the fact that his friend request was rejected ensuring that he has a felony assault entry in his record.

Caleb Burczyk, 29, pleaded not guilty to felony charges of burglary and terrorizing filed in Williams County District Court Tuesday, Dec. 29. Burczyk’s attorney Jeff Nehring declined to comment on the case.

Police say Burczyk started sending aggressive Facebook messages to his ex-coworker on Dec. 24, according to an affidavit of probable cause. He threatened his ex-coworker’s life and warned him that he was going to “come at” him if he did not accept his Facebook friend request, the affidavit stated.

“Accept my friend request or I’m going to murder you,” Burczyk wrote in a message to his ex-coworker, according to the affidavit.

I can understand being slightly upset when someone doesn’t want to be friends with you but this is extreme and the guy should be in jail as he is not stable and could have caused a lot of harm. These are the kind of entitled morons who need to be taught that the world doesn’t revolve around them and they need to accept that people don’t want to associate with them. I don’t blame the co-worker for not wanting to be friends if this is how he behaved. I am sure he was doing the same thing in real life as well.

Source: PSA: If Someone Doesn’t Accept Your Friend Request, Do Not Threaten To Kill Them And Kick In Their Front Door

– Suramya

January 7, 2021

Welcoming 2021 in style at Rajakkad Estate, Dindigul

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 5:06 AM

One of the biggest things that I missed in 2020 was traveling. Usually we travel to multiple places over the year but in 2020 it wasn’t the case due to Covid and we barely traveled anywhere. So, we wanted to do a trip for new years because we were getting stir crazy and we wanted to celebrate with a small group of close friends without having to interact with unknown folks. After a bit of research we decided to head down to Rajakkad Estate, Dindigul. This is an 18th century palace that was transported from Kerala by breaking it down to 35000 pieces and re-assembled in Dindigul in the middle of an 80 acre estate. The reviews of the place were amazing so we booked the place and prepared for the journey. Due to Covid we had to register for an e-pass as we were crossing into Tamil Nadu and the pass was auto-approved. Interestingly, there was no check for the epass but I don’t recommend traveling without it because if you don’t have the pass then you are sent back.

The trip started early morning (5:30am) on the 31st with me, Jani, Ayush & Akanksha in my car and Shashank on his bike. Just as we left home it started raining and it continued to rain throughout the trip. Due to which we had to drive at a slower speed and we also ended up stopping a few times due to the heavy rain so that Shashank could take a break from driving in the rain. Thus the trip which was estimated to take ~7 hours took us over 9.5 hours to complete. The last part of the drive was amazing with spectacular views but I didn’t get to enjoy them much as I had to focus on the road and I didn’t want to drive off the cliff while admiring the view. 😉

We finally reached the estate around 3pm and found that we 5 were the only guests over there for the duration, so we got to select our rooms. Me and Jani selected a corner room with spectacular views of the forest. The host Robesh walked us through the place and once we settled in we immediately requested for lunch as breakfast was a long time ago and this time we couldn’t stop for snacks as we usually do due to the rains. Lunch was quite good and every item in the menu was locally sourced from the estate’s own farm. Can’t comment about the non-veg dishes but the veg options were quite tasty and healthy. I do recommend that you stick with the south-Indian food options (they do make continental food but we didn’t try any) as the cooks are not that great with north Indian dishes (especially chappati’s). Other than that one dish most of the dishes were quite good. I even enjoyed the banana flower vegetable which is something I have never liked.


Hogging on great food

After lunch we thought about exploring the surrounding area a bit but it was still raining so we just relaxed in the sitting area and played a bunch of board games (they have a good collection). It had been a while since we all got together so it was good to catch-up with each other’s lives. Thanks to the rain the temperature dropped quite significantly and Jani was quite thankful for her electric heated jacket. We asked if we could get a heater setup in the area but apparently there was no power outlet (15A) that could take the load of the heater so after braving the cold for a bit we moved the gathering to the room where it was a lot more warmer after we closed the windows and the door. (If you are someone who doesn’t like the cold make sure you pack warm clothes as it gets quite cold in the evening as the place is on a hill)


The Central courtyard of the palace

We had initially planned to ring in 2021 with a bonfire, but thanks to the rain we thought that it wouldn’t be possible. However, the staff went out of their way to get a bonfire started for us and we got to sit outside next to the fire to welcome 2021. It was completely unexpected and a very pleasant surprise. After enjoying the fire for a bit we moved back to the room due to the cold and spent another couple of hours just chilling. We couldn’t stay up too late because all of us were tired as we had an early start so we crashed.


Welcoming the New Year with a bonfire


Cheers to having a fantastic 2021

The next day, I woke up at 8am for some reason and then couldn’t go back to sleep, so I spent a very pleasant morning walking around the surrounding woods and exploring the lovely garden. Once everyone else woke up we had a great breakfast with fresh juice, homemade bread, south Indian dishes and eggs. Thankfully it had stopped raining and the weather was very pleasant so we decided to explore the surrounding area and walked over to the Yoga platform which is built into the side of the hill with a spectacular view of the hills and the sun-rise (if you wake up early enough). We didn’t wake up that early so we just sat there for a bit enjoying the view and listening to Jani talk about all the flowers that she could identify (which were a lot). We then went for an hour long walk in the forest and saw a whole bunch of flora & fauna. The walk helped us build up an appetite and we were reading to do justice to the lunch prepared for us. It was served in an outdoor seating area and we all really enjoyed the food and the location.


Jani and me at the front garden


Freshly plucked tamarind directly from the tree


Group Selfie at the estate


Chilling at the Yoga platform

Post lunch we relaxed for a bit and Robesh suggested we checkout a waterfall nearby so we all drove for about 15 mins to the entrance to the trail and then walked down to the fall. It was a nice walk with a rope bridge on the way that we had to cross. It was amusing to watch some of the folks crossing the bridge (I am not going to name names) as they were quite scared. We did see a couple of giant squirrels on the way along with a whole bunch of birds and that was quite nice. Once we got back we remembered that we had brought badminton racquets so we played for a bit till it became too dark to see, post which we had dinner and another round of games, great conversation and relaxed. There is not a lot to do at this place so be prepared to entertain yourselves. The phone and 4G signal was quite spotty in the property and the WiFi was down thanks to the rain so we got to spend time without the constant distraction of the online world.


Enjoying the waterfall view

Next day all of us were up early as we had planned to leave immediately post breakfast so that we could reach home before dark. The breakfast was served in the open at a fantastic open air seating and we enjoyed great food with the sounds of nature as background music. Post breakfast we finished our packing and started back to Bangalore relaxed and rejuvenated.

However, the trip had some additional surprises in store for us. After about an hour of driving I realized that my car’s AC Fan had stopped working, and the temperature soon became too hot for me to handle (though Jani loved it). We ended up driving with the windows down, which was fine when on the highway but everytime we had to slow down due to tolls or traffic I was quite miserable. The return journey took us almost 11 hours due to the more frequent stops and traffic.


Breakfast in the forest

By the time we reached home I was exhausted and ended up crashing immediately. We drove ~850 kms round trip and it was worth every minute as the trip was a lot of fun with good food & stay, great company and a fantastic way to welcome 2021!

Wishing you all a Very Happy New Year!

Will write more later.

– Suramya

Powered by WordPress