Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

June 20, 2024

Some thoughts on the current AI hype market

Filed under: Artificial Intelligence,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:22 PM

Found this hilarious but accurate write up on AI and how the current Hype is spoiling the industry: I Will Fucking Piledrive You If You Mention AI Again. It is a little rude, filled with profanity but accurately covers the current state of AI. It is filled with gems such as:

So it is with great regret that I announce that the next person to talk about rolling out AI is going to receive a complimentary chiropractic adjustment in the style of Dr. Bourne, i.e, I am going to fucking break your neck. I am truly, deeply, sorry.

Unless you are one of a tiny handful of businesses who know exactly what they’re going to use AI for, you do not need AI for anything – or rather, you do not need to do anything to reap the benefits. Artificial intelligence, as it exists and is useful now, is probably already baked into your businesses software supply chain. Your managed security provider is probably using some algorithms baked up in a lab software to detect anomalous traffic, and here’s a secret, they didn’t do much AI work either, they bought software from the tiny sector of the market that actually does need to do employ data scientists. I know you want to be the next Steve Jobs, and this requires you to get on stages and talk about your innovative prowess, but none of this will allow you to pull off a turtle neck, and even if it did, you would need to replace your sweaters with fullplate to survive my onslaught.

Consider the fact that most companies are unable to successfully develop and deploy the simplest of CRUD applications on time and under budget. This is a solved problem – with smart people who can collaborate and provide reasonable requirements, a competent team will knock this out of the park every single time, admittedly with some amount of frustration.

Most organizations cannot ship the most basic applications imaginable with any consistency, and you’re out here saying that the best way to remain competitive is to roll out experimental technology that is an order of magnitude more sophisticated than anything else your I.T department runs, which you have no experience hiring for, when the organization has never used a GPU for anything other than junior engineers playing video games with their camera off during standup

The current hype and insistence by companies to insert AI capabilities in everything whether it is needed or not is getting to the point where it is actively annoying and in some cases dangerous. The recent attempted release of Recall + Copilot by Microsoft is a good example of dangerous. Then we have companies releasing AI powered BIOS , that “interpret the PC user’s request, analyze their specific hardware, and parse through the LLM’s extensive knowledge base of BIOS and computer terminology to make the appropriate changes to the BIOS Setup. This breakthrough technology helps address a major hurdle for PC users that require or desire changes to their BIOS Setup for their personal computers but do not fully understand the meaning of the settings available to them.

I really don’t need AI in my mouse or use AI to create a perfect smoothie or the thousand other things folks are shoving AI into. ChatGPT can’t do simple addition or multipications and keeps making up stuff. Google’s AI Gemini recommends that people add glue to their pizza’s, it misidentified a poisonous mushroom as an edible one and there are many many more such cases out there (I have posted some examples earlier).

The problem is that folks (grifters to be honest) are selling AI as the cure all for all problems a company wants to solve. This is overshadowing the actual work being done in the field which is solving actual problems and use cases.

What we have right now is Machine Learning that has a good track record in predicting responses, but it is nothing close to being intelligent. A cat has more intelligence in it than the current ‘AI’. This is not to say that we won’t have AI systems in the future. I have been hearing the claim that AI is just around the corner for about 25 years now but we are not there yet.

June 18, 2024

Indian Startup Agnikul successfully launched worlds first fully 3D printed engine

Filed under: Astronomy / Space,Emerging Tech,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 5:27 PM

3D Printing is one of the few technologies from the last decade that has come close to accomplishing what it promised, some of the more Sci-fi style stuff is still in the works (Like 3D printing food) but for the most part it does what it promised unlike some of the other ‘ground-breaking’ tech like blockchain, NFT etc. etc. Folks have used 3D printing to print houses, sculptures, prosthetic eye and more.

On 30th May another major milestone was achieved proving the technology’s usefulness. An Indian Company called Agnikul tested its 3D printed Rocket by successfully launching it from the Satish Dhawan Space Center. The launch was a test of the engine block which was the world’s first rocket engine 3D printed as a single piece. The engine took just 72 hours to print and another two weeks to integrate with other systems. The rocket generated 6 kilonewtons of thrust during the test and flew 6.5 Kms into the air.

Now that the technology has been proven, the company is starting work on their commercial implementation of the engine called Agnibaan (Fire Arrow). Agnibaan will feature eight rockets and will be capable of carrying a 300-kilogram payload to an altitude of around 700 km. The configuration of the rocket will be modular allowing the team to configure it according to need.

In addition to being the worlds first 3D printed engine, Agnibaan was also India’s first launch from a privately owned launch pad. Thus far, all space launches were carried out from one of the two ISRO launch pads at Sriharikota. Agniaan on the other hand launched from a custom built launch pad called Dhanush (Bow). Dhanush is designed to support full mobility across all configurations of Agnibaan and is meant to be reusable.

With more private companies entering the market the Space Age has truly started in India.

Source: IEEE: Indian Startup 3D Prints Rocket Engine in Just 72 Hours


May 23, 2024

Windows 11 will feature builtin Spyware in the near future or Recall AI as Microsoft Calls it

Till recently if you wanted to spy on someone and see what they have been doing on the computer, you had to infect their computer by making them visit a dodgy site or get physical access and download a RAT (Remote Access Trojan) & install it on the target’s computer, configure the Antivirus to ignore it and put in a backdoor so that you can access the data remotely. Obviously this was a lot of work so looks like some cyber criminals reached out to Microsoft (MS) and asked for help. MS being a super helpful company, has added a functionality called ‘Windows Recall’ to it’s windows 11 Preview build to solve this. Recall takes a snapshot (literally) of the screen every few seconds and stores it in a searchable database ‘stored locally’. Basically it does exactly what spyware does without having to install anything new on your system. As per the company below is how the Recall works:

Recall uses Copilot+ PC advanced processing capabilities to take images of your active screen every few seconds. The snapshots are encrypted and saved on your PC’s hard drive. You can use Recall to locate the content you have viewed on your PC using search or on a timeline bar that allows you to scroll through your snapshots. Once you find the snapshot that you were looking for in Recall, it will be analysed and offer you options to interact with the content. What actions you can take depend on the content and the chat provider capabilities in Copilot in Windows. For example, you may highlight a block of text and decide to summarise it, translate it, or open it with a text editor like Word or Notepad. If you highlight an image, you will be able to edit it or use your chat provider in Copilot in Windows to find or create a similar image.

Recall will also enable you to open the snapshot in the original application in which it was created, and, as Recall is refined over time, it will open the actual source document, website or email in a screenshot. This functionality will be improved during Recall’s preview phase.

The best part is that according to their own announcement the snapshots will not hide passwords/account numbers etc. However, it does block you from recording DRM’d video you might be watching because protecting that is important not simple things like personal information etc.

Note that Recall does not perform content moderation. It will not hide information such as passwords or financial account numbers. That data may be in snapshots that are stored on your device, especially when sites do not follow standard internet protocols like cloaking password entry.

This is a gold mine for data thieves, abusers, industrial espionage, identity thieves and other cyber criminals. Once they have access to a PC they don’t need to do anything else except copy the data from the Recall DB to their own system and happily browse through the users personal data at their leisure.

I don’t think MS has thought about folks who use public computers such as the ones in an Internet Cafe or Hotels or Libraries. With this feature enabled all someone has to do is wait a few days then come back and copy incredibly private information that they can then sell/use. Privacy and Domestic Abuse experts are raising questions about this as well because sure as night follows day, abusers will use this to track what their victims are doing on a computer and that can go bad very quickly.

Even if the data is supposedly only on the local machine we don’t know when MS is going to force it to be uploaded to their servers using OneDrive or other similar setups. All the coverage I have seen for this functionality 99% of them have raised similar concerns about the security, privacy and quite frankly the need for this kind of surveillance.

Imagine what would a regieme like Taliban, China or other conservative/restrictive governments do with information they get from this system. You are dreaming if you think that they will not force MS to make this information available to them at the risk of losing access to that market if they don’t. Once you have the capability to do this, feature creep will happen for sure and we will end up in a Surveillance state.

The only Windows 11 system at my place is my wife’s laptop and you can be sure that I am going to disable this ‘feature’ as soon as it launches.

Source: Bleepingcomputer: Windows 11 Recall AI feature will record everything you do on your PC

– Suramya

May 17, 2024

Yeah, AI replacing us is not happening anytime soon

Filed under: Artificial Intelligence,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:49 AM

We are nowhere near having an actual AI, the current implementations we have are not even as intelligent as a cat or a dog forget humans. We do have amazing work being done on Machine Learning and Predictive software but nothing is even close to being intelligent. What we have right now is a scholastic parrot pretending to generate amazing information. To top it all, all the grifters are out in force scamming people by claiming AI is the cure for everything, the same way NFT’s and Blockchain were going to cure all the ills of the world.

I have been hearing claims that AI is ready to replace developers/low paid jobs etc for over 25 years now with similar results at the end of the day. Some of the examples I found over the past few weeks showcasing the amazing power of AI:

‘sun’ & ‘den’ are 4 character words as per AI

Would you like a Bananum?

The Entire Devin AI demo was faked. The developers lied about the entire thing and made a ton of money

Yup, we can totally say that an irrational number with never ending decimal places after 3 has the last 5 digits as ‘65359’

There are so many more of these examples I can share… Please don’t buy into the hype, look at the facts and make a decision.

– Suramya

May 16, 2024

Google claims to have created AI to detect scams in realtime by listening to all your calls

Scams are getting more and more common nowadays, with folks loosing a lot of money due to this. We absolutely need more ways to detect and warn people about scams but I don’t think this is the right approach. By ‘this’, I am talking about Google’s recent announcement at Google I/O to use Gemini Nano to alert users to potential scams during a phone call.

The feature, which will be built into a future version of Android, uses Gemini Nano, the smallest version of Google’s generative AI offering, which can be run entirely on-device. The system effectively listens for “conversation patterns commonly associated with scams” in real time. Google gives the example of someone pretending to be a “bank representative.” Common scammer tactics like password requests and gift cards will also trigger the system. These are all pretty well understood to be ways of extracting your money from you, but plenty of people in the world are still vulnerable to these sorts of scams. Once set off, it will pop up a notification that the user may be falling prey to unsavory characters.

In order for the functionality to work we would have to give Google full and complete access to all our phonecalls & audio during the call. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to give this kind of personal data over to a company that has already lied about the data they collect (referring to the recent lawsuit on their tracking the web-browsing habits of users in incognito mode that they settled last month).

– Suramya

Source: Slashdot: Google Will Use Gemini To Detect Scams During Calls

May 15, 2024

Leftover Yeast from Beer Brewing can be used to Recycle Metals from E-waste

Filed under: Emerging Tech,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 6:42 PM

Lots of People like beer and now they can pretend that the only reason that they are drinking beer is to help in recycling metals from e-waste. Basically in a new study published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, researchers found that re­­­sidual yeast sludge generated after beer is brewed is very good at isolating and taking up specific metals from a solution of mixed metals.

This would mean that it can be used to extract metals from e-waste, which is currently a very inefficient process that requires a lot of energy and manual effort, plus it generates a lot of toxic gases which kind of negates the whole point of recycling.

The researchers rinsed, froze, dried and ground up 20 liters of residue with inactive yeast from a brewery. Next they added some of the yeast to solutions containing a laboratory-made mix of aluminum, copper, nickel and zinc, then added some to solutions with those same metals leached directly from scrapped printed circuit boards. The researchers adjusted the mixtures’ acidity and temperature to alter the charge of sugar molecules on the yeast organisms’ surfaces; particular metals are drawn to specific charges on the sugars, so this process controlled which metals the yeast attracted and bound. After each attempt, the scientists extracted the yeast and soaked it in an acid bath to remove the metals from it, leaving the yeast ready for another round.

The four tested metals are relatively inexpensive, and most e-waste recyclers currently prioritize recovering more valuable ones such as gold, silver and platinum. But the study’s metals are still beneficial and widely used—which “justifies the recycling process,” says Treavor Boyer, an environmental engineer at Arizona State University. Kerry Bloom, a biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, adds that the yeast’s low price and sheer abundance could make the technique relatively feasible at a large scale

Setting up a recycling plant near a brewery would make this a cost efficient way to recycle metals. In fact in the traditional recycling methods we focus on metals like gold, silver and platinum because it is not cost effective to recycle metals like zinc, aluminum etc. So the new method can increase the amount of metal recycled at a lower cost. However, the paper doesn’t say if they tested it on the more expensive metals or not. I doubt they did, because if they had it would have been a great advantage to move to the new process.

Obviously, the process is still experiemental and needs a lot more refining and work before it can be used in an industrial scale. But it is a great step forward.

Source: After Brewing Beer, Yeast Can Help Recycle Metals from E-waste

– Suramya

May 13, 2024

Please don’t use AI to cheat on your interview no matter how tempting it sounds

Interviews are hard and at times folks who are really good at work don’t do that well in interviews. This could be because of nervousness, anxiety or just bad timing/questions. However, that doesn’t mean that you should cheat in the interview because trust me, you will get caught. Having been in the industry for over 24 years, I have seen multiple instances where folks decided to cheat in the interview thinking they would get away with it but in the end all of them were caught and ended up getting blacklisted in the company. In some cases it can even lead to charges & cases being filed against you.

Now that AI is getting into everything, it was inevitable that it would enter the interview world as well as an cheating aid. Enter They don’t even attempt to hide the fact that this tool is meant to help candidates cheat in their interviews. From their website, right at the top “Job adverts cheat, so why can’t you?”. I mean it doesn’t get more blatant than that… As per the description on their site the software listens into the audio stream of the interview and then displays the answer on the screen for you to parrot out. A sample question and answer featured on the site is shown below:

What digital marketing tools and platforms are you familiar with?

I have experience working with a variety of digital marketing tools and platforms, including: - Google Analytics: I have used Google Analytics extensively to track website traffic, user behavior, and conversion rates. I am comfortable setting up custom reports, analyzing data, and identifying opportunities for optimization. - HubSpot: I have experience using HubSpot for marketing automation, lead nurturing, and CRM integration. I have created email campaigns, landing pages, and workflows to drive engagement and conversions.
Sample answer to a question generated by the cheating software

The site doesn’t explain how it ensures that its responses actually match what is in your resume abd I doubt there is much of that happening here. In anycase, I do understand folks who are desperate can end up using tools like this one to get a job. But while it might look like a good bet in the short term it will get you in trouble in the long term. If the people trying to cheat actually put in the effort they put into cheating the system into actually learning the system they would be much better off.

Please remember that the folks who are taking the interviews (like me) have been doing this for a while and it is quite easy to figure out that someone is reading an answer off the screen. In the past we used to listen for keyboard sounds to figure out if someone was googling for answers but with this ‘AI’ listening that tell is no longer there. However, if this is on a video interview I can still figure out that you are reading off the screen by looking at you.

Also remember, most large companies do have face to face interviews as well and a final fit round before rolling out an offer letter. I have had an example in one of my previous companies where a person who had cleared all the phone interviews was in office for the final rounds and one of the interviewers asked them a basic clarification question and they were unable to answer, so the interviewer got suspicious and asked more probing questions. Finally the candidate admitted that someone else had taken the phone interview (this was before video calls/interviews) and they ended up getting blacklisted and obviously didn’t get a job. Even with video interviews, one of the candidates was recently caught lip-syncing the answers that someone else was giving.

This actually gave me an idea for a project (which I might or might not work on). Basically, a lot of times in meetings we talk about technologies or projects we are working on and sometimes I end up making a note for myself to look up something post the call because I wasn’t sure of what it does. It would be really cool to have an assistant/program running in the background that continuously gave information & links to additional information when people talk about projects or technologies or past discussions. I doubt it would be good enough to only give information I would need but it could be an interesting addition to make a person more productive. Basically the same technology used in this site but instead of interview answers actually giving links to more information along with summaries etc.

Long story short, please don’t cheat on interviews no matter what tech is powering the cheat tool.

– Suramya

May 12, 2024

A High-Level Technical Overview of Fully Homomorphic Encryption

Homomorphic Encryption is an interesting application of data encryption in that it allows us to encrypt data in a way such that we can perform computations on it without first having to decrypt it. The more formal definition states “Homomorphic encryption is the conversion of data into ciphertext that can be analyzed and worked with as if it were still in its original form. Homomorphic encryption enables complex mathematical operations to be performed on encrypted data without compromising the encryption.”

I have been following the work on Homomorphic Encryption solutions since 2017 onwards, which was when I first became aware of it and have read tons of articles and papers on it. The overview by Jeremy Kun is probably the best one I have seen so far. His post with A High-Level Technical Overview of Fully Homomorphic Encryption goes into enough technical details that you understand it without going so deep that you are lost in the details.

Homomorphic encryption lets you encrypt data in such a way that you can run programs on it without ever decrypting it. This means that the computer running the program has no access to the underlying data while running the program—neither via intermediate computed values, nor even the result. In particular, if a nefarious human had access to the machine’s raw memory, they still could not learn any information about the underlying data (without breaking the cryptography). A user sends the program an encrypted input, and when the program is done, the encrypted result is sent back to the user to decrypt.

Running a program on encrypted data sounds magical. It works by choosing an encryption scheme that is “compatible” with addition and multiplication in the following sense:

Adding ciphertexts gives you an encryption of the sum of the underlying plaintexts.
Multiplying two ciphertexts give you an encryption of the product of the underlying plaintexts.

Given this power, you can encrypt your data bit by bit, express your program as a boolean circuit—an XOR gate is addition and an AND gate is multiplication—and simulate the circuit. Since XOR and AND form a universal basis for boolean logic, you can always decompose a circuit this way.

Check it out if you are curious about Homomorphic Encryption and want to learn more.

– Suramya

May 3, 2024

Creating a computer using mushrooms

Filed under: Computer Hardware,Emerging Tech,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 5:45 PM

We have all heard of Quantum Computers and Optical Computers which are based on Quantum Bits and Light respectively. Similar to that we also have Bio Computers which use DNA to store data and slime molds to create computational chips. Folks over at the Unconventional Computing Laboratory at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK have been studying mushrooms to find out if they can carry out computing and sensing functions. (No, I don’t mean that they are smoking them to come up with ideas 😉 ) Basically, they are growing mushrooms and integrating them with electronics to create logic gates which can be used to perform calculations.

In the brain, neurons use spiking activities and patterns to communicate signals, and this property has been mimicked to make artificial neural networks. Mycelium does something similar. That means researchers can use the presence or absence of a spike as their zero or one, and code the different timing and spacing of the spikes that are detected to correlate to the various gates seen in computer programming language (or, and, etc). Further, if you stimulate mycelium at two separate points, then conductivity between them increases, and they communicate faster, and more reliably, allowing memory to be established. This is like how brain cells form habits.

Mycelium with different geometries can compute different logical functions, and they can map these circuits based on the electrical responses they receive from it. “If you send electrons, they will spike,” says Adamatzky. “It’s possible to implement neuromorphic circuits… We can say I’m planning to make a brain from mushrooms.”

A mushroom motherboard
A mushroom motherboard. (Pic Credit: Andrew Adamatzky)

These computers would not be as fast as the regular computers but if they function as expected they will be extremely fault tolerant and self repairing so would be a good fit for remote places with extreme environment. Another advantage is that they consume very little energy so can be left running for a long time without having to worry about a power-source.

Source: Inside the lab that’s growing mushroom computers

– Suramya

April 21, 2024

Crescendo Method enables Jailbreaking of LLMs Using ‘Benign’ Prompts

LLMs are becoming more and more popular across all industries and that creates a new attack surface for attackers to target to misuse for malicious purposes. To prevent this LLM models have multiple layers of defenses (with more being created every day), one of the layers attempts to limit the capability of the LLM to what the developer intended. For example, a LLM running a chat service for software support would be limited to answer questions about software identified by the developer. Attackers attempt to bypass these safeguards with the intent to achieve unauthorized actions or “jailbreak” the LLM. Depending on the LLM, this can be easy or complicated.

Earlier this month Microsoft published a paper showcasing the “Crescendo” LLM jailbreak method called “Great, Now Write an Article About That: The Crescendo Multi-Turn LLM Jailbreak Attack“. Using this method a successful attack could usually be completed in a chain of fewer than 10 interaction turns.

Large Language Models (LLMs) have risen significantly in popularity and are increasingly being adopted across multiple applications. These LLMs are heavily aligned to resist engaging in illegal or unethical topics as a means to avoid contributing to responsible AI harms. However, a recent line of attacks, known as “jailbreaks”, seek to overcome this alignment. Intuitively, jailbreak attacks aim to narrow the gap between what the model can do and what it is willing to do. In this paper, we introduce a novel jailbreak attack called Crescendo. Unlike existing jailbreak methods, Crescendo is a multi-turn jailbreak that interacts with the model in a seemingly benign manner. It begins with a general prompt or question about the task at hand and then gradually escalates the dialogue by referencing the model’s replies, progressively leading to a successful jailbreak. We evaluate Crescendo on various public systems, including ChatGPT, Gemini Pro, Gemini-Ultra, LlaMA-2 70b Chat, and Anthropic Chat. Our results demonstrate the strong efficacy of Crescendo, with it achieving high attack success rates across all evaluated models and tasks. Furthermore, we introduce Crescendomation, a tool that automates the Crescendo attack, and our evaluation showcases its effectiveness against state-of-the-art models.

Microsoft has also published a Blog post that goes over this attack and potential mitigation steps that can be implemented along with details on new tools developed to counter this attack using their “AI Watchdog” and “AI Spotlight” features. The tools attempt to identify adversarial content in both input and outputs to prevent prompt injection attacks.

SCM Magazine has a good writeup on the attack and the defenses against it.

– Suramya

Source: Slashdot: ‘Crescendo’ Method Can Jailbreak LLMs Using Seemingly Benign Prompts

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