On the explosion of Artificial Intelligence!

Okay, so this is the first ‘tech’ post I’m publishing after a super long time. The last time I published an in-depth ‘tech’ post was this one, almost a year back, in September 2016, which is an absolute shame because I am, after all, a CS undergrad!

Anyway, without further ado, let me jump straight in…

So, I was just lazing around on YouTube, looking for stuff to sedate my synapses with, and I managed to land on this video — the Jobs and Gates interview back in ‘oh-so-far-away’ year of 2007.

The most striking thing about the interview, aside from the historic convergence of two of the most brilliant minds in tech industry (veterans, if you will), was their predictions for the next decade. And, since I was sitting in the year 2017, I had to absolute luxury of critiquing their predictions in hindsight.

One thing stood out during for me out of the entire interview, that was the part where they talk about A.I. (Bill especially goes deeper into the topic than Steve). Although the discussion was still mostly focused on the form-factor of the future devices, it was fascinating to hear about these visionaries’ foresight into the A.I. and the industry in general, especially in the hindsight.

So that got me thinking…

I mean, we keep hearing about A.I. all the fucking time in the news. Everyone’s talking about it. I’ve heard people talking about it in libraries, offices, public transportation and even in fucking washrooms (so, what if an A.I. could automatically flush down my poop once it detects that my bowels are empty). There’s like an A.I. article published by nearly by every major newspaper at least once a month, conveniently timing it with some random ass statement of the ‘ultra-rad’ Elon Musk on the state of A.I.s’ in general.

But, how much do we really know about A.I.?!

I suppose not much. Most of the KNAWLEDGE on A.I. is generally sourced from NEWS ARTICLES (even for me, as a CS undergrad, which is a shame). And news articles are mostly written by journalism and liberal arts majors who aren’t exactly great with things involving technology, and I bet half of them don’t even understand at the depth necessary to appreciate it. And I’m not the only one saying it.

So yeah, in order to understand the state of the A.I. industry and academia, I hit up the A.I. research pages of major tech firms, and I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY THE RAPID ADVANCEMENT. For instance:

  • Facebook’s pouring in MASSIVE amounts of $s’ into it’s A.I. research program christened ‘Facebook A.I. Research (FAIR)’ which in all fairness (pun intended) sounds like a pretty good name. Their mission statement talks about using A.I. to make the world ‘more connected’. Check out this piece talking about their research on advancing their A.I.’s vision game.
  • Google’s making insane advances in the field of A.I. (which is not surprising). I mean, their depth of research could very well span over a couple dozen pages. They are researching on applying A.I. on everything from Self-driving cars to Personalized assistant (aka yo’ Google assistant on 7.0.x and above), to augmented reality. And in fact, you can INTERACT with one of their A.I. right from the device you’re reading this on, RIGHT NOW. Check out ‘Quick, Draw!’, a game where a supervised A.I. predicts what you’re trying to draw based on previous data sets. It’s cool.
  • Tesla’s been gathering a SHIT-TONNE of data from it’s massive fleet of Models’ S, 3 and X (S3X for short) and that in-turn has made it’s ‘Autopilot’ A.I. incredible better. It’s now almost as good as a human driver, and as the time goes on, it’s probabilistic rate of crash is only going to decrease exponentially. I mean, check out this video and see for yourself.
  • SpaceX has been making steady progress on landing their first stage booster on the droneship over the past couple years now, ever since their first propulsive landing on LZ-1 on that historic day in December 2015 [I watched it live :’)]. And if you want to see the progress for yourself, I think a good place to start would be THIS video which essentially is a montage of all the ‘failed’ landing attempts that culminated in the success of Dec 2015 mission (Orbcomm OG-2). That’s probably the best and observable example of Machine Learning at work.

And much much more… I haven’t even mentioned Microsoft’s expansive A.I. division yet, or even Amazon’s. You get my point. This is one of the most exciting fields out there, no question; Companies know it. Investors know it.

Anyway, it’s almost 2:00am here in New Delhi and it looks like I might have to end this abruptly, but my point is that A.I. has been so intertwined in our lives that we’re starting to take it for granted.

I think we should sometimes take a step back and try reading up on the latest academic papers/publications in the field. Most of them will blow your mind for sure.

And of course, Media and pop-culture in general aren’t exactly the best guide for understanding A.I. There’s so much stuff that’s happening, and most of them behind closed doors that we, the average Joes’ will never get to see, until we seek.

Until next time.

P. S. Working on a super long article, and will most probably go live in a couple week-ish! <3

 

 

Advertisements

The briefing.

So, here I am posting again, after 2 long months.

Feels good to be back at the WordPress editor window.

If you’re reading this now (and if you’re not new), you may have noticed a slight blog redesign. T’was carried out this week in order to improve the stuff I care about THE most. Readability and Textual content. 

Just made a few tweaks here and there. Plus, updated the blog with a fresh typeface, that lucky font being Ubuntu’s default system one. It’s actually quite neat and easy on the eyes.

K, enough about the blog. Time for my narcissistic self to take charge.

Me.

I was finally done with my finals last week and early finals means just one thing: I got a shit-load of time.

See that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

Good thing is, I got loads of free time to do anything I want.

Bad thing is, I got loads of free time to do anything I want.

Let me elaborate on the “Bad thing”. The Instant Gratification Monkey part of my brain has massive issues with managing the flow of time. My time is just one vortex away from being funnelled out from me. So it’s rather important that I have a super-strict schedule to guide me through this. Unplanned block of time, for me at least, would be a…

Things I’ll be focusing on…

I’m almost done crafting a semi-big article on one of my most personal topics, The Social Media. Will probably publish it this weekend-ish.

I also have come up with a few new, exciting ones. Most of them stem from random synaptic bursts. Also, some historically significant ones.

I plan to write these articles after talking to *actual* people who have gone through the experience. Really, I have personally observed this.

Researching on the Internet and quoting the appropriate sources is one thing, but field blogging is just taking it to another level. Really excited about that.

Also, there will be a guest post written by someone soon. It will either be a standalone guest-post or will have my commentary packaged along with that of the guest author. I’m sure you will love it.

Final thoughts

Though I might not have been regular, I certainly think I have a strong love for writing. Topic fragmentation is certainly an issue, as some of my own friends have mentioned sometimes, but niche is just not my thing.

Also, it’s incredibly enriching to be able to connect the dots through your vast data store of knowledge. The world just makes so much more sense.

 

Stay tuned…

 

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the feature image is not mine. It’s actually from a royalty free photo project called Unsplash!. Those guys actually have a trove of high-quality, royalty free images with which you can do anything imaginable. It’s opensource and under CC Zero license, which means you basically own the image. You don’t even have to credit the creator. Great resource for small time blogs/websites. Check it out! :)

Why you should occasionally Google yourself!

 

google-images-hd-wallpaper

For many, Google (which as of this post controls 71.1% of the global search engine market share) is the gateway to everything that the Web hosts. People google a website’s name more often than entering it manually (or clicking on a bookmark).

And Google’s influence is way beyond than just acting as a way-point between people and their favorite sites on the web. Google has enough power to influence user’s thoughts and behaviours, it has enough power to change the state of the race of an election by simply altering the search ranking of the candidates.

But thankfully, Google is NOT evil. In fact that’s their motto. Almost all of Google’s search results are organic, meaning only the Google’s PageRank algorithm decides the positioning of a search result on the results page.

Google and You.

So, with that said, why should you care?

In today’s online world, concealing yourself is becoming an exception than the rule. By default people assume everyone is supposed to have a Facebook account, must constantly send out Tweets from their Twitter and must constantly upload a stream of pictures on their Instagram.

People (crackers included) can find a shit-ton about you just by knowing your first and last name.

Mobile devices only worsen the problem. Nearly every photo taken on your mobile device is Geo-tagged (unless if the user has disabled it), meaning it’s EXIF file contains tags about the Geo-physical location of, when the photograph was taken.

So, the Internet is a goldmine for hackers who can then use the very same information to impersonate you by stealing your identity. And if you think companies you trust are working round the clock to keep your account safe, then think again.

But, wait, I don’t want to scare you!

Yes, the point of this post is to NOT scare you. Of course, there is some probability of you being hacked sometime in your lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you need to be paranoid about it all the time.

Taking some simple steps to gain control over your information online is a good start. That’s why you should start by Googling yourself!

Why you should Google yourself?

Google, as previously mentioned is the first destination for any hacker to gain some basic data/meta-data about you.

If for example, you maintain public profiles on a whole bunch of websites, then all of them would show up in the search results.

A hacker can then manually mine and process your information from each individual profile (such as your username, profile picture, your family connections) and fuse them together to prepare a blueprint for an Identity Theft attack!

It’s called Social Engineering.

And, it’s scary.

General tips for Googling yourself!

Now that you’ve decided to Google yourself, here are some simple tips (conjured up from my own experiences) to help you.

  • Firstly, launch your browser in incognito mode (Firefox/Edge users can use “in-private” mode) – You want to do this because chances are, you’re already signed in many of your private accounts and Google account especially. This would invariably lead to Google displaying you personalized result right on top the very page (and fool you into thinking you’re the first result in your name’s search, Omg omg I’m faaamous!, No you’re not.). So, incognito mode is recommended.
  • Start by Googling your first name and last name – Chances are, there are tons of people already named after you, so your chances of finding your profile from that haystack of profiles is minimal, unless if you have a horribly rare name.
  • Search for your usernames on different profile – If you’re creative and love continuity, chances are you have same username across multiple profile on the web. Although it makes you easier to find on the web, like for example, Googling Abhiminator throws up my profiles exclusively, because I own the username across multiple profiles, it’s a hacker’s goldmine. With this, people can also find profiles in sites you don’t want people to access *cough* reddit *cough*. If you think your search throws up results you do not wish other people to see, you have three options. 1) Make the profile private so that search engine crawlers cannot access it. 2) Change your username to something completely unrelated to delink it from your name. 3) Nuke your profile (last resort of course.).
  • Finally, reverse search your profile image –  This is the final step in Googling yourself (and in some cases optional). Sometimes, your profile picture can end up in places you wish it didn’t end up in. And to make matters worse, they aren’t even linked to your original account. This happens mostly during catfishing, where people on dating sites put other’s profile picture to fool other users, and in some cases, they can use yours. You can reverse image search by dragging and dropping your suspected profile picture into Google’s image search bar. If you do end up finding your picture in an unrelated profile, you can shoot an email to that particular website for DMCA/privacy removal.

That’s about it.

Bottomline is, there are threats that exist in this information age that were unimaginable 20-30 years ago. With each passing day, the Internet is becoming even more ingrained in our everyday life and threats lurk just around the corner. But by taking specific precautions and using some common sense, one can avoid being digitally shredded.

Subscribe for more awesome posts delivered to your inbox.

Abhishek.