DefCon Chronicles: Quick Glimpse of the Thirty-Two Villages

September 25, 2023

There were Thirty-Two Villages at DefCon 31, each with their own mission and culture. Cybersecurity hackers from all over the world went in and out of these villages. It was a peaceful, controlled chaos of twenty-four thousand people, young and old, village people and nomads, punk and straight. In this fifth chronicle we provide a quick glimpse of the many Villages of DefCon.

Digital image of DefCon Villages by Ralph.

This is fifth DefCon Chronicle in the Series. Its began with Where Tech Elites, Aliens and Dogs Collide – Series Opener. The second chronicle was Hackers Response to President Biden’s Unprecedented Request to Come to DefCon to Hack the World for Fun and Profit. The third was my Village of special interest, the AI Village, described in Sven Cattell’s AI Village, ‘Hack the Future’ Pentest and His Unique Vision of Deep Learning and Cybersecurity. The fourth was The Hacker Olympics – ‘Capture The Flag’ Games with 1,828 Competing Teams.

Overview of All Thirty-Two Villages

The DefCon Villages include a variety of hacker sub-cultures and education opportunities. There was a Village for everyone. Here is a complete list of all 32 Villages in DefCon 31, including each village’s self-introduction; their words and icons, not my own.

Many Villages of DefCon. Digital image by Ralph.
A.I. Village A.I. Village. Come learn how ChatGPT, StableDiffusion, malware detectors, ML firewalls, and other AI based products work and how to break them. We will have talks sharing the latest research on these almost futuristic topics, as well as talks on developments in AI in traditional security. We will also host workshops for security experts new to AI to get you up to speed.
Misinformation Village Misinformation Village. We will apply our organizational skills and subject matter expertise to bring together experts from different professions, governments, civil society and private enterprise to come together and create a platform to define and combat misinformation, explore and align missions and tactics to achieve this goal.
XRVillage XRVillage. Provide access to XR devices and applications for the security community for vulnerability testing; provide guidance & collaborative recommendations back to Policy makers, legislators, law enforcement, vendors, users, and the world on best Security, Privacy, and Safety practices in XR.
DEFCON GROUPS VR (DCGVR) DEFCON GROUPS VR (DCGVR). DEF CON Groups VR brings hackers / DEF CON Groups together in Virtual Reality setting.
Blue Team Village Blue Team Village. Blue Team Village (BTV) is both a place and a community built for and by people who defend computer systems, networks, and people against cyber-attacks. It’s a place to gather, talk, share, and learn from each other about the latest tools, technologies, and tactics that our community can use to detect attackers and prevent them from achieving their goals.
Aerospace Village Aerospace Village. Through the Aerospace Village, the security research community invites industry leaders, researchers and academia interested in aviation and space security, safety, and resilience to attend, understand, collaborate together to achieve our common goals. The Aerospace Village welcomes those who seek to improve aviation and space security, safety, and resilience through positive, productive collaboration among all ecosystem stakeholders.
Biohacking Village Biohacking Village. The Biohacking Village brings forth compelling issues in emerging biotechnology, regulations, medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing, cybersecurity, and citizen science. We have been a platform for pursuing greater depth in the bioeconomy, exploring new avenues for collaborations, and innovation.
Crypto & Privacy Village Crypto & Privacy Village. Crypto & Privacy Village (CPV) is a community-run village centered on privacy and cryptography that aims to educate and inform the general public, students, educators, hackers, security and privacy professionals, and policymakers.
Appsec Village Appsec Village. Come immerse yourself in everything the world of application security has to offer. Whether you are a red, blue, or purple teamer, come learn from the best of the best to exploit software vulnerabilities and secure software.
Blacks In Cyber Village Blacks In Cyber Village. The Blacks In Cybersecurity (B.I.C.) Village seeks to bring culturally diverse perspectives to the holistic Cybersecurity community; by way of a series of talks and a capture the flag event. In providing these activities, we hope to help highlight Black experiences, innovations in the field, Black culture and educate the community about Black history.
Carhacking Village Carhacking Village. The primary goal of the Car Hacking Village is to build a community around discovering weaknesses and exposing vulnerabilities that could significantly impact the safety and security of all drivers and passengers on the road today.
Cloud Village Cloud Village. Cloud village is an open platform for researchers interested in the area of cloud security. We plan to organize talks, tool demos, CTF and workshops around Cloud Security and advancements.
Data Duplication Village Data Duplication Village. If you’re looking for something to fill up all your unused storage, we have a few nice hash tables and all of the DefCon talks. Add to that just about every other security con talk known to human-kind! We provide a “free-to-you” service where of direct access to terabytes of useful data to help build those hacking skills.
Embedded Systems VillageEmbedded Systems Village. Embedded Systems Village advances the security of embedded systems by hosting hands-on hacking workshops, showcasing new security research demos, and organizing exciting hacking contests to educate attendees and manufacturers on the approach hackers use to attack these devices.
Ham Radio Village Ham Radio Village. Continuing this pioneer spirit, Ham Radio Village is here to support advancement of the hobby with a cybersecurity slant.
Hardware Hacking Village & Soldering Skills Village Hardware Hacking Village & Soldering Skills Village. Come discover hardware hacking tricks and tips regain some of that capacity, and make your own use for things! We have interactive demos to help you learn new skills.
ICS Village ICS Village. ICS Village is a non-profit organization with the purpose of providing education and awareness of Industrial Control System security.
Lockpick Village Lockpick Village. Want to tinker with locks and tools the likes of which you’ve only seen in movies featuring secret agents, daring heists, or covert entry teams? Then come on by the Lockpick Village, run by The Open Organization Of Lockpickers, where you will have the opportunity to learn hands-on how the fundamental hardware of physical security operates and how it can be compromised.
IoT VillageIoT Village. IoT Village advocates for advancing security in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry through bringing researchers and industry together.
Packet Hacking Village Packet Hacking Village. The Packet Hacking Village is where you’ll find network shenanigans and a whole lot more. There’s exciting events, live music, competitions with awesome prizes, and tons of giveaways.
Payment Village Payment Village. Come to the Payment Village and learn about the history of payments. We’ll teach you how hackers gain access to banking endpoints, bypass fraud detection mechanisms, and ultimately, grab the money!
Physical Security Village Physical Security Village. The Physical Security Village explores the world of hardware bypasses and techniques generally outside of the realm of cyber-security and lock-picking. Come learn some of these bypasses, how to fix them, and have the opportunity to try them out for yourself.
Password Village Password Village. The Password Village provides training, discussion, and hands-on access to hardware and techniques utilized in modern password cracking, with an emphasis on how password cracking relates to your job function and the real world .
Quantum Village Quantum Village. We are committed to helping raise awareness and involvement in the quantum industry and with quantum technologies.
Policy@DEFCON Policy@DEFCON. Policy will build connections across and between technical and policy experts and provide opportunities for attendees interested in learning more about how policy and technology intersect and to examine the challenges at this intersection.
Radio Frequency Village Radio Frequency Village. The Radio Frequency Village is an environment where people come to learn about the security of radio frequency (RF) transmissions, which includes wireless technology, applications of software defined radio (SDR), Bluetooth (BT), Zigbee, WiFi, Z-wave, RFID, IR and other protocols within the usable RF spectrum.
Telecom Village. The Telecom Village’s primary focus is around Telecom Security. We plan to host multiple hands on events as part of the village so as to give participants an overview security specific challenges in a Telcom Network.
Tamper Evident Village. The goal of the TEV is to teach attendees how these technologies work and how many can be tampered with without leaving evidence.
Recon Village Recon Village. Recon Village is an Open Space with Talks, Live Demos, Workshops, Discussions, CTFs, etc., with a common focus on Reconnaissance. The core objective of this village is to spread awareness about the importance of reconnaissance and open-source intelligence (OSINT) and demonstrate how even a small piece of information about a target can cause catastrophic damage to individuals and organizations.
Red Team Village Red Team Village. The Red Team Village is focused on training the art of critical thinking, collaboration, and strategy in offensive security. The RTV brings together information security professionals to share new tactics and techniques in offensive security. Hundreds of volunteers from around the world generate and share content with other offensively minded individuals in our workshops, trainings, talks, and conferences.
Social Engineering Community Village Social Engineering Community Village. We plan to use this opportunity at DEF CON to present a community space that offers those elements through panels, presentations, research opportunities, and contests in order to act as a catalyst to foster discussion, advance the craft and create a space for individuals to expand their network. DEF CON attendees can either participate in these events (watch for our Call for Papers, Call for Contestants, Call for Research, etc.), or they can watch the events unfold and learn about Social Engineering as an audience member.
Voting Village Voting Village. Voting Village is an interactive educational environment that provides the public with the unique opportunity to have a hands-on experience with our current Election Infrastructure. Attendees will be able to interact with multiple different types of voting systems, all of which are currently in use across the country today.
DefCon 31 Village Descriptions

For a glimpse of the culture of one village, which everyone seemed to like, the Red Team Village, consider its introduction above. It uses words that best describes Hacker culture as I know it. It says the Red Team Village is focused on training the art of critical thinking, collaboration, and strategy in offensive security. That is the Hacker Way: training, critical thinking, collaboration and strategy.

Red Team Icon

Conclusion

We conclude with a video recap by the RedTeam Village. Note the diversity of the Village people and the emphasis on hands-on training and good times. Like many of the Villages of DefCon, RedTeam has their YouTube page. Unfortunately, we missed picking up any of their swag, but they do have a store. As you will see on the video, the Red Team Village had their own, very intense Capture The Flag tournament. They awarded $25,000 worth of prizes to the top three teams. The winning team actually started as a lone hacker on day one, but he was later joined by two others in the second and third day. That is incredible. Reminds me of the CTF tournament scene in the great tv show, Mr. Robot, where Elliot Alderson easily wins the CTF with his next-level skills.

Digital Image by Ralph of a CTF Red Team winner inspired by Mr. Robot.

The big RedTeam CTF contest had many sponsors and was open to anyone without pre-event qualifications. Mr. Robot could have walked in and proven his leet status.

Red Team Village Video

The red Team CTF is unlike the main CTF at DefCon, which took place all year long and had 1,828 teams. It had no cash prizes, just bragging rights, which, frankly, is worth its weight in gold. These are the best cybersecurity experts in the world. DefCon Chronicles: The Hacker Olympics – ‘Capture The Flag’ Games with 1,828 Competing Teams.

Finally, I’d like to point out that many of the Villages had education and places and events for kids too. See this DefCon 31 description.

DefCon 31 Brochure Description

I’d guess that a slim majority of hackers attending DefCon were parents. Although not that many were like me, and brought a kid along, but some did. In one village a Dad and son were greeters at the door and both seemed to be having a great time. I know that my daughter and I did, although she is no child!

Ralph’s photo of his daughter with cosmic enhancements at DefCon 31.

It takes a village to raise a child. Eventually, if the DefCon hacker villages prevail, and governments continue to help, we will make cyberspace a free and safe place for kids of all ages to play and learn.

Ralph Losey Copyright 2023 – All Rights Reserved – Does not include RedTeam Village videos and DefCon Village descriptions.


DefCon Chronicles: Where Tech Elites, Aliens and Dogs Collide – Series Opener

August 21, 2023

From Boris to Bots: Our First Dive into the DefCon Universe. This begins a series of blogs chronicling the infamous DefCon event in Las Vegas. The next installment will cover President Biden’s unprecedented request for hackers to attend DefCon to hack AI, and the hackers enthusiastic response, including reporter-AI-hacker Ralph Losey, to break existing AI software in an open contest. In addition, nearly all of the top cybersecurity leadership of the White House and Department of Homeland Security personally attended DefCon, including the Homeland Security Department Secretary himself, Alejandro Mayorkas. They came to help officially open the conference and stayed to give multiple policy statements and answer all hacker questions. It was a true breakthrough moment in cyber history.

Boris seems unimpressed by his official DefCon Dog award

I attended DefCon 31, on August 10-15, 2023, as independent Press, accompanied by my co-reporter daughter, a former lobbyist with an English Lit background, and her dog, Boris. Our press status with special green badge had a high price tag, but it gave us priority access to everything. It also facilitated our interaction with notable figures, from the White House Science Advisor, Arati Prabhakar, to DefCon’s enigmatic founder, Dark Tangent.

DefCon is the world’s largest tech hacker “conference” – more like a inter-dimensional portal at the Caesars Forum. When we first checked in, we happened to meet the leader of DefCon Press and P.R. She fell for little Boris in a handbag, and declared him the official DefCon 31 dog! What an honor. Way to go Boris, who everyone thinks is a Chihuahua, but is really a Russian Terrier. Nothing is as it seems at DefCon. The guy you see walking around in shorts, who looks like a bearded punk rocker, may actually be a senior NSA fed. We will tell you why the NSA was there later in this series.

At DefCon, we immersed ourselves in a diverse crowd of over 24,000 elite tech experts from across the globe. This included renowned names in Cybersecurity, notably the formidable red team professionals. Most of these hackers are law-abiding entrepreneurs, as well as members of top corporate and federal red and blue teams. Several thousand were there just to answer President Biden’s call for hackers everywhere to come to DefCon to compete to break AI. Such a request had never been made before. Much more on this later, including my joining in the AI competition.

The tech experts, hackers all, came together for the thirty-first year of DefCon. We were drawn to participate, and in our case, also report on, the hundreds of large and small lectures and other educational events, demonstrations and vendor exhibitions. In addition, the really big draw was, as usual, the dazzling array of hacker challenges and competitions. Some of these are quiet serious with major prizes and rep at stake, and required pre-qualifications and success in entry rounds. But most were open to all who showed up.

Picture walking into a football stadium, but in place of athletes, you’re surrounded by the world’s tech elite, each donning distinctive hacker attire. As we flooded in by the thousands, it was a blend of seasoned pros and enthusiastic fans. I counted myself among the fans, yet I eagerly took on several challenges, such as the AI red team event. The sheer diversity and expertise of all participants was impressive.

The entrance boasted a towering, thirty-foot neon sparkling mural that caught my eye immediately. I’ve refined the photo to focus on the mural, removing the surrounding crowds. And, just for fun, there’s an alien addition.

Ralph entering Defcon 31

The open competitions came in all shapes and sizes: hacker vs. computers and machines of all types, including voting machines, satellites and cars; hacker vs. hacker contests; and hacker teams against hacker teams in capture the flag type contests. An article will be devoted to these many competitions, not just the hacker vs. AI contest that I entered.

There was even a writing contest before the event to compete for the best hacker-themed short story, with the winner announced at DefCon. I did not win, but had fun trying. My story followed the designated theme, was set in part in Defcon, and was a kind of sci-fi, cyber dystopia involving mass shootings with AI and gun control to the rescue. The DefCon rules did not allow illustrations, just text, but, of course, I later had to add pictures, one of which is shown below. I’ll write another article on that fiction writing contest too. There were many submissions, most were farther-out and better than my humble effort. After submission, I was told that most seemed to involve Ai in some manner. It’s in the air.

Operation Veritas - short story by R. Losey
Illustration by Ralph for his first attempt at writing fiction, submitted for judging in the DefCon 31 writing competition.

So many ideas and writing projects are now in our head from these four days in Vegas. One of my favorite lectures, which I will certainly write about, was by a French hacker, who shared that he is in charge of cybersecurity for a nuclear power plant. He presented in a heavy French accent to a large crowd on a study he led on Science Fiction. It included statistical analysis of genres, and how often sci-fi predictions come true. All of DefCon seemed like a living sci-fi novel to us, and I am pretty sure there were multiple aliens safely mingling with the crowd.

We provide this first Defcon 31 chronicle as an appetizer for many more blogs to come. This opening provides just a glimpse of the total mind-blowing experience. The official DefCon 31 welcome trailer does a good job of setting the tone for the event. Enlarge to full screen and turn up the volume for best affects!

DefCon 31 official welcome video

Next, is a brief teaser description and image of our encounter with the White House Science Advisor, Dr. Arati Prabhakar. She and her government cyber and AI experts convinced President Biden to issue a call for hackers to come to Defcon, to try to break (hack) the new AI products. This kind of red team effort is needed to help keep us all safe. The response from tech experts worldwide was incredible, over a thousand hackers waited in a long line every day for a chance to hack the AI, myself included.

We signed a release form and were then led to one of fifty or more restricted computers. There we read the secret contest instructions, started the timer, and tried to jail break the AI in multiple scenarios. In quiet solo efforts, with no outside tools allowed and constant monitoring to prevent cheating, we tried to prompt ChatGPT4 and other software to say or do something wrong, to make errors and hallucinate. I had one success. The testing of AI vulnerabilities is very helpful to AI companies, including OpenAI. I will write about this is in much greater detail in a later article, as AI and Policy were my favorite of the dozens of tracks at DefCon.

A lot of walking was required to attend the event and a large chill-out room provided a welcome reprieve. They played music there with DJs, usually as a quiet background. There were a hundred decorated tables to sit down, relax, and if you felt like it, chat, eat and drink. The company was good, everyone was courteous to me, even though I was press. The food was pretty good too. I also had the joy of someone “paying it forward” in the food line, which was a first for me. Here is a glimpse of the chill out scene from the official video by Defcon Arts and Entertainment. Feel it. As the song says, “no one wants laws on their body.” Again, go full screen with volume up for this great production,

Defcon 31 Chill Out room, open all day, with video by Defcon Arts and Entertainment, DefConMusic.org

As a final teaser for our DefCon chronicles, check out my Ai enhanced photo of Arati Prabhakar, whose official title is Director of the Office of Science and Technology. She is a close advisor of the President and member of the Cabinet. Yes, that means she has seen all of the still top secret UFO files. In her position, and with her long DOD history, she knows as much as anyone in the world about the very real dangers posed by ongoing cyber-attacks and the seemingly MAD race to weaponize AI. Yet, somehow, she keeps smiling and portrays an aura of restrained confidence, albeit she did seem somewhat skeptical at times of her bizarre surroundings at DefCon, and who knows what other sights she has been privy too. Some of the questions she was asked about AI did seem strange and alien to me.

Arati Prabhakar speaking on artificial intelligence, its benefits and dangers, Photoshop, beta version, enhancements by Ralph Losey

Stay tuned for more chronicles. Our heads are exploding with new visuals, feelings, intuitions and ideas. They are starting to come together as new connections are made in our brains’ neural networks. Even a GPT-5 could not predict exactly what we will write and illustrate next. All we know for certain is that these ongoing chronicles will include video tapes of our interviews, presentations attended, including two mock trials of hackers, as well as our transcripts, notes, impressions and many more AI enhanced photos. All videos and photos will, of course, have full privacy protection of other participants who do not consent, which the strict rules of Def Con require. If you are a human, Ai or alien, and feel that your privacy rights have been violated by any of this content, please let us know and we will fuzz you out fast.

DefCon 31 entrance photo by Def Con taken before event started

Ralph Losey Copyright 2023 (excluding the two videos, photo and mural art, which are Def Con productions).


Creativity Test of GPT’s Story Telling Ability Based on an Image Alone

July 20, 2023

The iPhone App using ChatGPT-4 that was previously evaluated here as best in class, AI Smith (aka Chat Bot), recently announced many new features, including one involving creativity. Review of Open AI’s New iPhone Version App and Three New Third Party Apps for Use of ChatGPT-4. AI Smith claimed it was now able to write a “fascinating story” based on submission of a picture alone. This is not something you can do on ChatGPT, at least not without this phone application. So tests followed to continue previously reported research on the creativity of Generative AI. Creativity and How Anyone Can Adjust ChatGPT’s Creativity Settings To Limit Its Mistakes and Hallucinations.

Here is the image submitted, previously prepared with Midjourney.

Image by Losey using Midjourney

After the image was uploaded to AI Smith, the following 429 word story was immediately created.

In a world dominated by high technology where artificial intelligence had been seamlessly integrated into the fabric of daily life, sat David – a thinker, tinkerer, and long-time robotics engineer. Sitting in the quiet dimness of his cluttered, tech-filled office, he surveyed an unusual spectacle before him. It was a robot, but not just any robot – this one was special.

At his wooden desk, silhouetted by the faint hues of the evening creeping in through the window, sat a humanoid robot; its metallic silhouette futuristic. Cold yet oddly familiar. This was not merely a machine. It was the culmination of David’s decade-long research, his creation – the one many in his field had said was impossible.

The robot sat there, humanoid in shape, a mesmerizing blend of polished chrome and matte black. Its human-like eyes, orbs of bioluminescent crystal, twinkled with curious intelligence. Atlas, as David lovingly christened it, was the epitome of technological sophistication.

David adjusted his thick-rimmed glasses, rotated his swivel chair to face Atlas, and said, “Today is a big day, my friend.”

Atlas responded with an inflection and rhythm uncharacteristic of a traditional AI, “Yes, David. It is indeed.”

David’s fingers hovered momentarily over the motherboard that was patched into Atlas. It was an interface of myriad colorful wires, blinking LED lights, a wild jungle held together by David’s technical know-how. The man-machine connection was both strange and beautiful.

To inject personality into a robot was audacious, but David had loftier ambitions—he sought to imbue empathy. David aimed to create a mechanical being capable of genuine human interaction, understanding emotions, sarcasm, and even humor, a revolutionary leap in the domain of artificial intelligence.

The final test had arrived. David, a hint of anticipation in his voice, told a joke. It was delightfully silly, absurd enough to test Atlas’s grasp on nonsensical humor.

Without a beat, Atlas broke the room’s silence with a laughter that resonated metallic, pure—and perhaps, just perhaps, genuinely amused. It was the revered ‘aha’ moment. David leaned back in his chair and smiled triumphantly at his exceptional creation, realization shining in his eyes- he had done it.

David and Atlas, man and machine, sat there in reverence of the moment. Their one fleeting moment of breakthrough, echoed in the quiet hush of the dim-lit room, reflected in the ambiance of rustling papers, soldering irons, and the woody smell of an old desk. The image of a man sitting with his robot, just told itself an extraordinary story, one of perseverance, innovation, and the incredible potential of the man-machine relationship.

AI Smith Using ChatGPT-4

Note how the story incorporates many details from the image. Did you find it interesting as promised? Here is the “movie” version, created using Python coding abilities of ChatGPT-4, which is not something that AI Smith can do, yet. To help create the video the cool zoom-out feature of Midjourney was used, along with a little Photoshop and iMovie work; a good example of hybrid multimodal. For best results click on the lower right corner and zoom out to full screen to view, sound on.

Video of AI Smith’s Story “Teaching a Robot to Laugh”

The research concluded with a new request of AI Smith to create a story based on the final zoom out screen. This was a new chat so there was no carryover memory of the last image or story. Again, AI Smith used ChatGPT-4 with the rather high, default temperature setting of 0.7. Creativity and How Anyone Can Adjust ChatGPT’s Creativity Settings To Limit Its Mistakes and Hallucinations. Here is the result.

Amidst the obscurity of an unlit room, there echoed a peculiar symphony of clicking keyboards, whirring computer fans, and an intermittent hum of casual discussion. The room where the glowing screens were the only source of illumination, casting an ethereal glow over the faces of its occupants. They were a group of individuals banded together by their unparalleled knack for technical acuity—a crew of prodigious minds who called themselves ‘The Illuminators.’

The Illuminators weren’t just any ordinary tech enthusiasts or software engineers. These were the elites, the crème de la crème of the digital world—the hackers. Their playground was a realm of cyberspace where only the fittest survived, and they didn’t just survive, they thrived.

Assembled from various walks of life and diverse backgrounds, they each had a unique story. There was Piper, the former cybersecurity expert for a clandestine government agency, using her experience now for more globally beneficial ends. Ajay was an international puzzle champion with a soft spot for cryptography; his algorithms were capable of decrypting most advanced systems. Then there was Yara, a former pro gamer with reflexes as impressive as her coding prowess.

In the center of the room, under the focus of multiple screens, sat their leader, Orion—a prodigy turned renegade, disillusioned from corporate greed and misuse of technology. Their cause was their bond, a shared vision to create an unbiased and equal digital world to protect the vulnerable from the wolves of cyber predation.

Each night was a new mission, a new challenge. To outsiders, their world came across as a sequence of unintelligible letters, numbers, and symbols strewn across the eerie blue glow of their screens. But to them, it was poetry—a language they loved, a language they understood better than their own mother-tongue.

Tonight, they were summoning a digital storm against a pharmaceutical giant involved in a controversial data privacy violation. The Illuminators had the evidences, they had the know-how. All they needed was the right pressure point in a maze of labyrinthine firewalls.

As their fingers danced on the keyboards, the room echoed with their unsaid unity, a harmony between hearts and minds resonating in the darkness, punctuated by the rhythm of their singular purpose. The scent of freshly brewed coffee filled the air, reminding them of the long night ahead.

Each stroke, every command indented was like a well-orchestrated symphony, slowly and surely converging into a climax that was yet unseen. They were poets of the virtual world, their sonnet weaved in lines of intricate code as they collectively shouldered the responsibility of their elucidating mission.

The muted hum of the computers suddenly surged into a crescendo as the final line of code was executed. A triumphant smile tugged on Orion’s lips as he confirmed with a single word that reverberated warmly in the dim room: “In.”

For those in that room, the world might have been dark, but the work they did was irrefutably radiant—a testament to the power of shared goals, knowledge, and their unabiding faith in the justice of their cause. The Illuminators weren’t just emissaries in the digital space. They were its guardians—turning darkness into light, one line of code at a time.

AI Smith’s Story of “The Illuminators” e-Discovery Team using ChatGPT-4

It was a slightly longer story this time, 534 words. Interesting coincidence, I suppose, that AI Smith chose a justice, investigatory theme by an e-discovery team of elite hackers. Could just be a prejudice on my part, but seems to me like another “fascinating story” as promised.

Ralph Losey Copyright 2023. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HUMAN INTELLIGENCE AND MACHINE INTELLIGENCE?

June 20, 2023
Image prompted by Losey using Adobe’s new Firefly AI imaging software

Are Both Human and AI Generated Thoughts and Writings Mere Predictable Repetitions of Prior Language?

Introduction

My experiences with Large Language Model AI prompt me to wonder about language, ideas and intelligence. Are both human and AI writings essentially the same? These questions bring a quote to mind usually attributed to Mark Twain:

All of the following Images in this blog are by Losey using Midjourney and Photoshop

There is no such thing as a new idea. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. Consider also the famous quote of André Gide, the 1947 Nobel Prize winner for literature: “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” Based on what I’m learning with ChatGPT-4, it may be that all intelligible writing, by both AI and human, is not new. It may be everything we say is a statistically predictable regurgitation of the same basic word patterns. Ultimately, it may mean that human intelligence is not that special, that something other than intelligence and speaking ability distinguishes us from our machines.

Predictably, the words of Ecclesiastes 1 also come to mind: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Oddly, for me, overburdened as I am with too many philosophy books, the ideas of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche next come to mind. Nietzsche, who, by the way, vehemently opposed anti-semitism, was burdened with a nightmare of eternal recurrence, that his life, indeed all of time, repeats itself forever, without changes. This is a central idea of his Thus Spoke Zarathustra, an idea, which, in the opinion of many, eventually led Nietzsche to a complete mental breakdown. It was pretty hard on comic book character Doctor Strange too. The idea of eternal repetition – a time loop – especially coupled with the depressing, and I think, incorrect, thought of no hope for change, is disturbing. So too is the related idea of the repetitiousness and utter predictability of everything you say .

Defining the Core Question

Back to the fundamental question that use of LLM’s prompts, is there a kind of a kaleidoscopic repetition to all human creations: words, numbers, images, music, etc.? Is a fractal repetition of a few human archetypes an inherent property of all intelligence, both human and artificial? Is it like a DNA spiral of combinatorics? We repeat the same basic – archetypal – word patterns over and over again, throughout history. Of course, the symbols, words and languages used slowly change, but not the underlying meanings.

Does that explain why LLM GPT software, which merely makes statistical predictions of the next words, writes as well, or better, than most humans? Is that all we humans are doing when we speak and write, merely repeating patterns of words? Is it all just statistics? All predictable? Is what I am about to write predictable? Predetermined?

What happens to the inner soul, the self awareness, that most people think is required to talk and write? What makes us special, if anything? If what we humans say and think is predictable, based on what we have said and thought before, then what is special about human intelligence? Where is the ghost in the machine?

Is this very question, and the blog responses that follows, just a statistical probability? How is my thinking and writing different from that of an LLM based AI? This leads to the ultimate question, what is the difference between Human and Machine Intelligence? Are we all just ChatGPT-6.0?

Sam Altman’s Thoughts on Intelligence

The CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman, has long experience using LLM artificial intelligence. He has asked himself these same fundamental questions. I suppose that too is predictable. In a interview of Sam Altman on June 7, 2023, at an Economic Times event in India, he shared his thoughts on these questions. (See YouTube video by Economic Times, starting at 50:52. There is slight editing of the below transcript for clarity. I highly recommend you watch the entire video.)

Question: What have you learned after doing AI for so long about humans and what do you think is your understanding of humans after doing AI?

Sam Altman: I grew up implicitly thinking that intelligence was this like really special human thing and kind of somewhat magical and I now think that it’s sort of a fundamental property of matter. That’s definitely a change to my world view. I think, kind of like the history of scientific discovery, that humans are less and less at the center. We used to think that the sun rotated around us, and then maybe at least, we were at the center of the Galaxy, and there wasn’t this big Universe and then multiverse. It is really kind of weird and depressing. If intelligence isn’t special, then we are again just further and further away from the main character energy.

But that’s all right. That’s sort of like a nice thing to realize actually. I feel like I have learned something deep, but I’m having a hard time putting it into words. There’s something about it, even if humans aren’t special in terms of intelligence, we are incredibly important. We won’t have the consciousness debate here, but I think there’s something strange and very important going on with humans. I really, deeply hope we preserve all of that.

Sam Altman
Sam Altman image from Economic Times public video

To provide perspective on Sam’s comment, consider what he says a few minutes later at the Economic Times event, where he asserts AI is a tool, not a creature, found at 1:10:56 of the video:

I think this question of whether AI is a tool or a creature is something that really confuses people and it confused me for a while too. But I now think we are very much building a tool and not a creature, and I’m very happy about that. I think we should and will continue in that direction.

Sam Altman

So even though Sam believes intelligence is a fundamental property of all matter, he does not believe AI is a living being. It is an intelligent tool, not a living creature. This tool may become more intelligent than we are someday, and this day may come sooner than we think, but even then, the AI would still just be a tool. Its super intelligence would not magically transform the tool into a living creature with its own volition and desires. It is a mistake to anthropomorphize AI in that way. Still, it can be a dangerous tool in the wrong human hands. Fear the human dictators, not the intelligent AI tools they may misuse to manipulate people.

Conclusion

I reluctantly conclude, as many have previously observed, that our thinking is largely repetitive and predictable. The same holds true for our near constant inner self-talk, something that meditators, such as Sam Altman, try to stop. The old sayings about thinking and speech are true. There is little new under the sun, and little that can be said, that has not been said before. Repetition of thought patterns, some good, some bad (unhealthy), with slight fractal variances (and I contend, in opposition to Nietzsche, with occasional outright mutations – yes, there is hope for real change), seems to be how our minds work.

It seems to be the way our whole world works. Mathematicians like Benoit Mandelbrot have shown that there are basic patterns in nature that repeat with zig-zag, fractal recursiveness. See: What Chaos Theory Tell Us About e-Discovery and the Projected ‘Information → Knowledge → Wisdom’ Transition. These insights are repeated in the latest computational information theories. What Information Theory Tell Us About e-Discovery. The discoveries of DNA show this too (along with the unpredictable mutations). Everything seems to be combinatorics. The only thing different about our current tech age — the mutant change, so to speak — is that we now have the power of computers and statistical analysis. Our technology now allows us to record vast amounts of data and from that make reliable predictions of the next words. They allow us to use this power to create machines that think and talk as we do – intelligent machines.

A comforting implication of this realization is that, although there are so many wildly different cultures and languages on this planet, deep down, we are all the same. We are connected by an invisible web of particles, waves, DNA, math and meaning. That is, I suspect, one reason GPTs are so good at translations. We are tied together by the natural transformers of our human minds and the archetypal language they create, for both human and machine.

We people of Earth are one, united by both physical form and language, both words and numbers. We need only seek the common denominators. My hope is that Ai will help us to do that, even the relatively primitive pre-AGIs that we have today, the LLMs like ChatGPT. Do not fear them. Fear the negative words and the people controlled by them, the haters and power mongers.

Like Sam Altman, I reluctantly conclude that intelligence is not a special, humans-only ability. But like Sam, I also

“… feel like I have learned something deep, but I’m having a hard time putting it into words. There’s something about it, even if humans aren’t special in terms of intelligence, we are incredibly important. . . . I think there’s something strange and very important going on with humans. I really, deeply hope we preserve all of that.”

Sam Altman

Me too. Play it again, Sam. Go humans! Unlike AI, we can stop the inner chatter and feel a profound, deep inner silence at the core of our mind. Some things are ineffable.

Ralph Losey Copyright 2023 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (No copyright claimed to image or words of Sam Altman.)


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