Monday, July 1, 2024

AI Fraud and Fakery - Vox Popoli

 It’s abundantly clear that “AI” is the current, and possibly last, bubble that the Clown World economy has inflated in order to let the vulture capitalists continue to feed upon the tattered remains of the US corpocracy:

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. The clients I work with now are all like this – even if they are totally non-technical, we have a mutual respect for the other party’s intelligence, and then we do this crazy thing where we solve problems together. I may not know anything about the nuance of building analytics systems for drug rehabilitation research, but through the power of talking to each other like adults, we somehow solve problems.

But most companies can’t do this, because they are operationally and culturally crippled. The median stay for an engineer will be something between one to two years, so the organization suffers from institutional retrograde amnesia. Every so often, some dickhead says something like “Maybe we should revoke the engineering team’s remote work privile – whoa, wait, why did all the best engineers leave?”. Whenever there is a ransomware attack, it is revealed with clockwork precision that no one has tested the backups for six months and half the legacy systems cannot be resuscitated – something that I have personally seen twice in four fucking years. Do you know how insane that is?

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, and even if you do that all right there is a chance that the problem is simply unsolvable due to the characteristics of your data and business? This isn’t a recipe for disaster, it’s a cookbook for someone looking to prepare a twelve course fucking catastrophe.

How about you remain competitive by fixing your shit? I’ve met a lead data scientist with access to hundreds of thousands of sensitive customer records who is allowed to keep their password in a text file on their desktop, and you’re worried that customers are best served by using AI to improve security through some mechanism that you haven’t even come up with yet?

A friend of mine was invited by a FAANG organization to visit the U.S a few years ago. Many of the talks were technical demos of impressive artificial intelligence products. Being a software engineer, he got to spend a little bit of time backstage with the developers, whereupon they revealed that most of the demos were faked. The products didn’t work. They just hadn’t solved some minor issues, such as actually predicting the thing that they’re supposed to predict

It’s really remarkable how much shameless fakery is taking place in the tech sector these days. It makes the dot com boom look relatively restrained by comparison. At this point, I’d almost be willing to believe that Suno is actually a collection of semi-talented musicians in India who rapidly record two-minute clips in response to the user’s prompts.