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Black Hat Talk About ‘Time AI’ Causes Uproar, Is Deleted by Conference (vice.com)
237 points by lnguyen 72 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 190 comments



This reminds me of a person who somehow managed an invitation to give a presentation at UC Berkeley on database compression in 1993, with similar levels of snake-oil. I remember one of the funnier moments, a theme of the presentation was how there were more and more large data sets out there, including the Library of Congress. In a burst of enthusiasm, the presenter gushed about how they even had a Stradivarius violin in their collection. I turned to my friend and said, "well, I can imagine how to do data compression on that, but the decompression is going to be hard."

The actual technology was just a variant of Lempel-Ziv, and the claims about lossless compression were just hiding the entropy by not counting a huge dictionary off to the side. Even so, there were claims that this result "extended information theory" and the patterns found could be the basis of learning.

The presenter had climbed in their regional market, and gotten a puff piece in a business magazine, but obviously the grad students at UC Berkeley weren't buying it. The presenter's startup didn't go anywhere, but they have had a successful career, and are now a VP at Gartner.

I guess the lesson is that there's a network that runs on technical expertise and ability to deliver results, and a parallel network that runs on bullshit and the ability to convince people. There's a lot of money and power in the second network, and it intersects with respected, established institutions. Grant seems to be playing that game masterfully, and the publicity from being publicly attacked at a "Black Hat" conference plays into his hands beautifully. Maybe Gartner will be hiring?


I read your comment up to the last paragraph and was going to comment about “VP at Gartner” and how these consulting companies (and Accenture, Deloitte, etc) run on bullshit but your last paragraph sums it up perfectly.

I wonder what can be done to nuke these BS companies out of existence. Anyone has ideas?


These companies provide political value. I think of them as black boxes that don't really do anything to its input but give political weight to the arbitrary claim associated with the input. Want to cover your fuckup on a project? Hire Accenture for a few months to do something meaningless, like produce a report with all the problems in the project. Change nothing. Then say that clearly the project is more difficult than you've anticipated, you even retained a consultant that said this and that. More resources are required.

You can do training sessions for people you want to advance or hold back. In both cases sessions would be meaningless and void of any real value, except that they assign attribute Foo to the group of people. Then you can say that only people with Foo can do Bar, moving those people forward in their career. Alternatively you can overcome some bureaucratic obstacle by claiming that you do Foo regularly, which is a requirement from some authority for some reason.

I don't really know how this kind of politics works, but this is how I tend to think about it.


I think you need to dial back the vitriol. Yes Ive seen these firms screw projects up royally (Accenture Hertz for example). Ive also seen them consistently deliver valuable insights and outcomes for their clients. Ive worked with utterly incompetent client staff (i.e. people not so dissimilar from you, maybe) and some very very good ones (also you maybe). At no point do I advocate nuking anything or anyone out of existence. Neither should you.

Signed,

A Consultant


I’m a consultant as well. I’m confident I can deliver (with a team of trusted contractors I personally know) most of what “Big Consulting” (aka the aforementioned companies) delivers (or fail to deliver) for less than half the price and still make a significant profit, or refer the client to someone who’s more experienced in that area of business. The Hertz case is a prime example.

My post isn’t a dig against consulting, it’s a dig against “Big Consulting” where it’s more about bluff, a big brand (to prey on the “nobody has been fired for choosing X”), lots of meetings & bullshit while the actual work gets outsourced to monkeys in third-world countries with atrocious working conditions.

I want to nuke “Big Consulting” out of existence to let real consulting take its place for people like you and me.


Speaking of Deloitte, they were the auditors when the Spanish bank Bankia (then a newly formed conglomerate of 6 saving banks, with Caja Madrid as the cornerstone) went public. A report was produced by Deloitte saying that the financial statements provided by the bank were accurate and that going public was a viable strategy.

The moment the bank went public their valuation went down and months later the Spanish central governement had to inject 23 billion euros (of EU money) into the bank.

We know now that that Deloitte's report was based not on actual independently collected and analyzed information but on "possible future scenarios" outlaid by Bankia's executives.

In court, Deloitte's representatives argued that they really hadn't had access to the necessary information to produce the audit. So what did Deloitte's dozens of employees worked on for months? Why did they produce a report that couldn't possibly know if it was accurate?

Bankia, Abengoa, Livent, Standard Chartered, Carillion... the pattern is always the same: "we can make it go any way you want".


You are mixing 2 different tasks that create your confusion:

- the tentative review of a proforma version of accounting used for the IPO, which Deloitte did not sign but where heavily discussed and to which Deloitte have access.

- the formal audit of the financial statements, for which Deloitte did NOT give the ok (Francisco Celma, the responsible partner, did not sign), as it was not given all the information (but they did have items to work on, just not everything needed).

Rodrigo Rato, then Bankia’s CEO, pushed Celma to sign without having reviewed all info; when he refused, Rato went forward with the IPO nonetheless.

Also I think it is Celma in particular, and not Deloitte as a company, who is being sued (or is the one legally liable, irrespective of the suit; can’t really remember )


Don’t invest in index funds. Vet the great companies by their technical leadership excellence and invest in them accordingly as long as the valuation is fair.


How did you come to this conclusion?


We live in a world where great products win over constant bullshitting on the market, but the right allocation of money can speed things up significantly.


Which companies have you personally invested in?


I have some Bitcoin now, so I’m not invested in the stock market. But right now I think TSLA is cheap at $41B. With all its faults it tries to rely on software, focuses on future tech even though none of that is mature. It’s deep learning chip and sensor suite is currently far underused, which means that sofware has the potential to increase its margins compared to other car companies.


I considered TSLA when it dipped below $200, but I just don't have any confidence in Musk. I heard him saying they will have full level 5 autonomy next year. That's just ridiculous. It would be less ridiculous for him to say he will land a human on Mars next year.


Sure, there won't be autonomous driving next year. Elon Musk has a bad habit of redefining things: he defines FSD as being able to see signs, traffic lights, hopefully not crash that much into trucks, and take intersections.

It sucks, but look at the competiton: they don't get data from drivers, don't launch and iterate. For example I'm in Eastern Europe and I don't know any other company that has training data for my country.

Also Andrew Karpathy improved the development framework a lot, I guess you looked at the autonomy day presentation. It was interesting (and shicking) to me that depth wasn't learned before from the cameras, I think it's crucial.

Anyways I understand your sentiment, that's partly why I still prefer owning Bitcoin.


My experience with Gartner is similar to yours - much longer on slippery snake oil salespeople than content experts. They are supposedly a research org but what they produce looks copy and pasted from a 90s website.


I'm not sure the division is that strong. Years ago, I repeatedly saw a talk from a wellish known academic about "compressed" SMS messages that were simply a prearranged code. This was shortly before text messages became very cheap, wireless networking became much more common, and phone processors were in the process of becoming much more powerful.

Then there was the professor pushing their "Lego" model of network protocol development, whose example was encryption and compression blocks.

There's less money in academia, but just as much publicity.


many, many CS research papers obfuscate their methods as a barrier to entry by making them sound more complicated than they are ... case in point any paper describing part of its computation as applying the 'Haar Wavelet Basis'


The company has issued a "statement regarding recent allegations made at Black Hat 2019 [0]. For anyone interested, the statement links to the guy's paper [1] "where he identified the first Infinite Prime Number prediction pattern".

> Utilizing multi-dimensional encryption technology, including time, music’s infinite variability, artificial intelligence, and most notably mathematical constancies to generate entangled key pairs, ...

I'm not even remotely qualified to speak about any of it but it certainly gives the feeling that they're selling "silicon snake oil". My bullshit detector hit 11 after reading the above.

Supposedly, Grant's discovery enables "the accurate prediction of prime numbers". I'm unable to find out just how many previously unknown prime numbers he has successfully predicted thus far, however. Anyone know?

[0]: https://www.crownsterling.io/2019/08/crown-sterling-issues-s...

[1]: https://arxiv.org/abs/1903.08570


The paper is quite straightforward and use only math from the first or second year of the university. If you understand the word "module" and have 15 minutes to loose, give it a try.

Ignoring the reference to unrelated results about prime numbers, the main idea is that to check if a number is prime:

1) First check the remainder modulo 10, modulo 9 and modulo 24. This part is correct, but it's suspicious that they waste a few pages to prove it. Anyone with a minimal background will agree with this part explained in a line.

2) They make a multiplication table "Q-grid" of the number that are not multiple of 2 nor 3. The idea is that after discarding the numbers with the bad remainder module 24, the rest of the numbers are not multiple of 2 nor 3. Again, it's suspicious that they give a long explanation and the use of invented names like "Quasi-primes"

3) To test if N is prime, they try to find in this table build looking first at the numbers nearby the x~=sqrt(N) and y~=sqrt(N) so x * y ~= N. It's not clear how they lookup in the table.

Being very optimistic, this is essentially like searching for a divisor of N up to sqrt(N). [I'm not sure that their implementation is not worse.] This search up to sqrt(N) is one of the first trick you learn to test primality. The advantage of their method is that they reduce the search space modulo 24 and they get the result in sqrt(N)/3 steps. [I'm not sure that their implementation is not worse.] This is slightly better than using only the odd numbers to get the result in sqrt(N)/2 steps.

For big enough numbers to be used in cryptography, this sqrt(N) or sqrt(N)/2 or sqrt(N)/3 is complete rubbish compared to any modern serious method, it's not even funny, I understand the uproar.

Some quotes:

> And because when we search for the prime factors of some semiprime number we need to remove the non-prime numbers from both axes of the Q-grid, like 25, 35, 49 etc., the problem will automatically reduce to simply locating the number in the Q-grid, with its horizontal and vertical projections on both axes being its prime factors.

I hope they are not trying to build the whole Q-grid. It uses more memory than a simple search. Also if they are keeping only the prime numbers, why all the discussion of using the remainder module 24. All big prime numbers have the correct remainder module 24.

> In fact, these two numbers, 2 and 3, contradict many of the primes properties such that some mathematicians consider them as sub-prime integers.

I never hear that. Bad math joke: Did you notice that 2 is an odd prime number?


Thanks for the summary.

> First check the remainder modulo 10, modulo 9 and modulo 24.

This makes zero sense already. First, 9=3 x 3, so checking for 3 is sufficient. (Checking for 9 might be easier in decimal, but why the hell would you do cryptography in decimal?) Then there’s the 24=2 x 2 x 2 x 3. Again, why not just use 6, but even worse, there’s no new factor here that’s not already covered by 10 and 9.

(And as you mentioned, even if this works, much better primality Tests are readily available.)

(Off-topic: Is there a good way to indicate multiplication on HN? I can’t figure out how to escape asterisks, and Unicode symbols seem to be simply filtered out, which is a bit crazy in 2019.)


They are using the "rule of nines" (i.e. the sum of the digits, perhaps iterated). It is very handy when you have the decimal representation of the number to operate on paper, but it's not as handy when you have the numbers in the computer. I "translated" that to "modulo 9" because it is equivalent and is easier to understand for not native English speakers. [Hi from Argentina!]

Also, they are using the last digit of the number, that I translated to "modulo 10".

Another reason for the translation is that the mathematical structure is more clear in "modulo 10, modulo 9 and modulo 24" than in the version "last digit, nines rule and modulo 24".

In a computer is much more efficient to use modulo that transforming the number to a string and then operating with the digits, so I hope they have an efficient implementation but it is not clear from the pdf.


It looks like a pen and paper algorithm adapted to computing. Though even then it sucks. Mod 2, mod 5, mod 3 would eliminate more non primes and require less steps in pen and paper.


Try typing two asterisks with a space in between: *


> Checking for 9 might be easier in decimal

It isn't. The test is the same in both cases.


It is. The sum of decimals is much faster than the modulo.


Huh? You need modulus either way. n is zero (mod 3) iff its digit sum is zero (mod 3), and it's zero (mod 9) iff its digit sum is zero (mod 9).


It looks like all instances of "module" here should be "modulo", having been auto-incorrected or something.


Ups. I'm from argentina, so blame the autotranslation table inside my brain. I hope it's not bad enough to make the idea unintelligible.


It's fine. We're in a thread about people's "snake oil detectors" going off, and your use of module where the right word is modulo kept causing the needle on mine to deflect, but you'd say something reasonable right after.

The famous 19th century English poet Robert Browning was not a particularly worldly fellow and got it into his head that the word "twat" referred to a nun's headgear. Later he wrote a poem that needs a rhyme for bats in the context of religious folk arriving for prayer and he picked "twats", - then since he was an important English writer and this word was unfamiliar to them (or at least they had no citations for it) the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary asked him about it, and discovered his error. Oops. You're never going to make a mistake that'll be as famous as Browning's, so you're fine.


Since we are correcting stuff, it is: Oops

I also was thrown off by the word module. I said to myself, unless he is talking about modulo I have no idea what that is.


http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Module.html

The Module Learning With Rounding (MLWR) and Module Learning With Errors (MLWE) problems are used for a couple of the round-two candidates in NIST's Post-Quantum cryptography contest.

Which makes it more confusing. Modules aren't first/second year university math.


>Some mathematicians consider...

Sheesh, citation needed. Doubt this paper would be allowed as a post on wikipedia.


How much does your bullshit detector hit with their promo video?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd_2HwAmge8


It's pretty amazing, it feels far fetched even for a sc-fi... They claim to have discovered something that simultaneously renders all prime number based encryption algorithms obsolete and dangerous, opened a door to a new unified theorem in physics life and everything, has something vaguely to do with music and time and a new class of prime numbers, and for the dystopian icing on the cake: only they with their new proprietary algorithm can they protect all your important information... oh also AI of course, because AI.


As far as I can tell/guess, if there is actually any product to what they claim, they are just taking standard encryption techniques and making them worse by applying buzzwords. Relating to my non-expert laymans understanding of cryptography, the process is:

- Generate primes. Practically, I understand that it's usually generating a number that's extremely likely to be prime. It sounds like they are using "not a multiple of 24" for this part (which is both obvious and obviously bad, for obvious reasons)

- Multiplex data with a sequence off of the original factorization, which is only as secure as the prime but slows down brute-force attacks. It sounds like they are using sampled waveforms of this-maybe-prime to AI-generated music (topical!) as the multiplexing sequence.

It basically sounds like cargo-cult mathematics - all the best mathematics are beautiful and use symmetry _ergo_ creating something with symmetry and beauty must be good mathematics.


I mean - this is a pretty impressive video. Bullshit, but impressive.

How much does something like this cost to get made? This isn't exactly "I know a guy who has After Effects" level production.


The video effects are beautiful. This could easily be the intro of a successful Netflix series. I watched it completely (4:40 min) because the graphics and all the mumbo-jumbo mesmerized me.


I'm not sure what you guys/gals are seeing. It's pretty much exaclty "I know a guy who knows After Effects"-level. Most of the graphics style is pretty inconsistent as the basis (probably stock footage) and only made consistent via heavy filters (desaturating everything and applying a lot of bloom).

You could probably cobble this video together for a few hundred bucks on Fiverr.


> I'm not sure what you guys/gals are seeing.

For comparison, my best animation is a gif with a moving arrow, something like the "Click here to begin" arrow of Windows 95, but much worse. In comparison these graphics are impressive. (On the other hand, when I see the math I'm impressed in the other direction.)


> only made consistent via heavy filters (desaturating everything and applying a lot of bloom).

Perhaps that's what I'm seeing, yes


one key from the past and one key from the _future_


At that point it broke my BS detector, I had to order a new one.


from __future__ import key


It was made by The AI itself.


That video is amazing.

The conference is really playing into Time AIs game by censoring it. Underlying the story that this new technology is just too big and too groundbreaking for the industry to accept :-D


It's like some Hollywood movie intro, really well made.


BlackHat isn't really the "industry to accept it". It's the industry that obliterates it as it's purpose.


A conference not accepting a talk is not censorship.


The conference accepted the talk. They gave the talk. The conference is now removing their videos after-the-fact. It's not hard to see how one could spin that as censorship.


The conference did _not_ accept the talk, they paid the conference so that they could give the talk.


Which they accepted, no?


They don't vet the paid presentations.


Really? Wow.


It is censorship. Not all censorship is bad. Black Hat has a duty to censor these asshats.


Broke the needle.

I wonder who they're targeting with this. Given the nature of the product and the high production value bullshit video, I guess they must be after either rich individuals or incompetent upper management.


This guy is a known crank. His paper popped up on /r/math a few months ago https://www.reddit.com/r/math/comments/bargli/can_a_mathemat...

See also: http://primes.utm.edu/notes/crackpot.html

Don't him too much credit. He deserves none.


He even shows up in the comments of that thread. I'd love to know if he really believes the nonsense he's spewing:

https://www.reddit.com/r/math/comments/bargli/can_a_mathemat...


It looks like he found that reddit thread.


My bullshit detector was already super high at "Time AI". Might as well have gone all in and call it "Time Blockchain AI".


> Well, I did allude to a draft preprint of some arguments that point out the major issues with Grant's paper he is presenting at @BlackHatEvents. Here is that draft: Reviewing Recent Prime Generation Methods for Breaking Cryptographic Keys

https://twitter.com/LargeCardinal/status/1159204973282025472

https://unprovable.github.io/drafts/Prime_Generation_For_Bre...


So it sounds like the people in attendance who challenged it live were aware of it beforehand and showed up to call him out? The linked Twitter post saying "Sad to see such charlatans given a stage at Black Hat" was on August 2nd.

Edit: and a paper critiquing the math was published July 2019: https://unprovable.github.io/drafts/Prime_Generation_For_Bre...


I didn't watch the talk, but if it is anything like the paper many people would be able to call bullshit on the spot, especially those who would attend such a talk in the first place.


Surely the best thing to do with charlatans is put them in the spotlight and expose them. If you refuse to "give them the limelight" then you're just letting them hide their deception long enough to rip [more] people off.


"Entagled key pairs" sounds like Deepak Chopra style woowoo.

"Brains are soul localizing devices." <--- The Deepster Chopra.


Any pitch that wastes 30min to talk about primes, or that focuses on primes, is trying to scam you. You’re welcome.


There's thousands of dollars on offer for each large one and a somewhat related millennium prize.

Guess scaling is down the track for this "business"


I am waiting for the Time Cube to make an appearance.


There's an article from PC Mag with a few more details:

https://www.pcmag.com/news/370119/black-hat-attendees-sponso...

Here's a video of Robert Grant giving an introduction to his Time AI nonsense from their party the night before:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/llp24loq5odvyhk/Crown%20Sterling%2...

JP Aumasson live tweeted their presentation at Blackhat:

https://twitter.com/veorq/status/1159559785068429312


Do I understand those Twitter threads correctly in that BH security removed you from the room? The heck?


Yes, and it makes sense that I was thrown out. It's not like the security guard knows the talk is bullshit. He just saw a guy (me) yelling that, "all you employees of this guy should quit and find real jobs!" I think that was an appropriate response in the moment.

The true failure happened when Blackhat decided it was ok to accept money from a con man.


Fair enough, I naively assumed that security at BH had people embedded that would be able to make that call. But yeah, agree on all fronts then, thanks for standing up to him.


I have somewhat sympathy for Black Hat, especially with the "pay for talks" model that they seem to get funding from, it's easy for these things to get a platform.

I went to a maker space in the UK that occasionally held talks - one day they had a talk by some "Alkaline water" machine manufacturer (not the manufacturer, but one of the pyramid scheme dupes). Like many of these, it was a random mix of diverse actual (irrelevant) science, pseudoscience bullshit, conspiracy theory (as to why this wasn't e.g. used in medicine), appeal to authority and outright fraud, gish-galloped together into one giant mess. The diversity of the actual science means that there is _nobody_ who can be an expert in all areas and so refuting can be waved away.

Many of the otherwise practically intelligent people (although a wide mix came to this space) apparently couldn't tell or didn't care. Several people actually bought machines from them.

I suppose all of this is (in these contexts) is preying on the tendency for competent scientists to automatically question their own assumptions, but even when they do most of the time it just feeds their "controversy" argument using people who would never have bought it anyway.

Con-artists continue to thrive for a reason; even with the canniest/most suspicious people there's an arbitrage on how long they can survive in one place before moving onto the next target.


> diversity of the actual science means that there is _nobody_ who can be an expert in all areas and so refuting can be waved away.

No, you just overthought it. Consider Diogenes' refutation of Zeno's motion paradoxes. Did he invent calculus? No, he stood up and walked around.

If somebody tries to sell you a magical medicine water alkalizer machine, just throw alkaseltzer tablets at their face until they fuck off. That's all the refutation that's needed. A technical 'rigorous' refutation wouldn't be understood by the rubes such con men target anyway.


I don’t have any sympathy, but this isn’t really that big of a deal. Black hat is expensive as fuck and they could have done without the money. I think they do less than DEFCON while also charging more but that’s just my hot take. I don’t think they’ll suffer any practical reputation damage (like people choosing NOT to go to Black hat). It’ll just be a meme and something they laugh about.


They're different events. For a lot of offensive security subjects, the bar to get a talk accepted at Black Hat is significantly higher than at Defcon. Black Hat has a clear professional focus; Defcon tacks more towards culture and enthusiasts.

If you don't want to pay for Black Hat, you don't have to; one of the things Black Hat's registration price covers is professional recording, and the talks are published on Youtube in a few months.


Don’t forget that blackhat pays its speakers.


I've always hated sponsored talks. I understand why they exist -- because they are huge money makers for the conference organizers. Occasionally, you get a good one, where it's a talk about a general topic that happens to have a light tie in with the commercial product. Or it's a very good commercial product that people want an in depth talk about.

But usually, it's just a 30 minute ad that's all fluff. I try to avoid them, but sometimes I volunteer at conferences and get stuck managing a sponsored talk track, and man is it depressing.


Snake oil for sure, but this is merely a snake oil sales guy who walked into a room full of people willing to call him out.

The rest of society is not so courageous.

You only need to look at various management consultants, new age healers, and religion to find more people who obviously know nothing about how the world actually is, but are never held to account.


Black Hat is like a $2k ~ $3k conference. Even though many people there are sponsored by their companies, it's still expensive and I suspect people who put this kind of value in this conference aren't going to sit around and put up with what they know is bullshit.


[flagged]


I didn't downvote, but only because I honestly can't tell if this is satire or not.


> Time is growing more important than space, that'll be building up to 2024.

that part makes you sound a bit crank-ish... could you explain this a bit more? what's happening in 2024?


You are impyling my bullshit detector needs "regligious art" class. Without explaining in laymans terms, you implicitly position yourself being "smarter than me" and I should be understanding what you say or go learn about it.

I'm fine as it is, thank you.


I also suspect the guy (Robert Grant) is a conman, but whatever scheme he is running is quite elaborate: https://strathspeycrown.com/team

Does anyone have an insight as to what their endgame is, and where their funding is coming from?


Having a team page like that is your first red flag.

https://strathspeycrown.com/subsidiary-companies-investments...

> "Strathspey Crown is a visionary portfolio of transformational businesses, focused on the most complex sectors of healthcare, energy, and technology."

This seems to be the parent company, check out some of the goofy things they claim to been involved in. Quotes like "changing the paradigm", "the internet of wellbeing", "where little things make a big difference". It's cookie cutter generic websites for every one of them, most of the time I can't work out what their product is supposed to be or what they're claiming to be working on.


Just spent the last 15 minutes reading through their websites in quiet amazement. How do they get funding? Why do people pay them?

When your ‘director of cryptography’ has this in his bio, surely something’s up:

> dedicated the last fifteen years to decrypting mathematical codes in Shakespeare’s writings that have revealed unknown sacred geometry hidden in the pyramids of Giza.

Another of their companies sells patches that relieves pain through the magic of quantum physics. Something about the energies of healing substances that unlock a pain relieving carrier wave.

Yikes.


It's like audiophiles; there's not too many people who believe it, but enough of the ones that do have enough disposable income to make a great grift.


I'm genuinely confused here... some audio equipment does actually sound better than other audio equipment. Are you referring to snake oil audio cable salesmen?


"Audiophiles" are generally associated with not high end audio equipment at absurd costs and no reasoning. Oxygen free copper cabling, making sure your cables are isolated from the floor on little stands to reduce the vibration they absorb, "burning in" amplifiers for thousands of hours to improve the flavor of the output in a supposedly perceptible way. Many behaviors with the consistency of rubbing deer blood on your car hood to give it bloodlust, and therefor extra speed.


> ...rubbing deer blood on your car hood to give it bloodlust, and therefor extra speed.

I've never heard this one; brilliantly funny!!


People differ about which point Audiophilia descends into nonsense. Obviously the magic stones and $5000 digital cables are ridiculous.

I would probably argue for a more expansive definition. If you have to listen really, really hard to hear the enhancement piece of equipment gives then it's a waste of time and money.

But hell, I grew up listening to music recorded onto a C90 through a $40 walkman.


Not just "listen very hard", but "listen very hard during a double blind test".

I remember a thread on avsforum.com where one individual has claimed he could hear the difference between cheap and expensive cables. Someone on the forum offered to travel to his house, do a double blind test, and post the results. The individual agreed, and the test was performed. The results of 20 tests were something like 12/8, where 12 was the number of times he mistook the $5 cable for the $900 one.

Well, that was kind of expected, however the most interesting part was that despite this clear evidence, the individual still refused to change his mind about importance of the "high quality" cables. It was a bizarre and eye opening experience for me to follow that development.


There is a fundamental issue here. Some people (with understanding of 101 stats) see the results of 12/8 of false/true outcomes and read it as a confirmation of null hypothesis - 50%/50% of guessing the cord.

Some other people, however, see it as 8/20 you can hear the inferior product, they think that they are not peasants to get 8/20 feeling of inferior product, so shut up and take my money, cause $900 cable will guarantee 0/20 of hearing bad cable, totally worth it. nuff said


I've seen a coil in a fancy box sold for 800 bucks to clean and smooth out the air structure in the room to improve your sound experience. I suppose, that kind of stuff is meant.


Speakers sound different, and thus some speakers will sound better to you. Most people find linear speaker performance "hard work" so you don't see it attempted in homes usually.

And maybe, if you don't use active speakers, the Amplifier makes a difference.

Everything else is snake oil, not just the cables. Separate CD transports, fancy DACs, "HD" formats, all snake oil.


Yes, the latter, and a lot of the really expensive home audio kit.


I had no idea the old equidistant letter sequences trick is still alive after all these years.


I would say all the companies are different branches of the same Con artist.

Just working on different directions.

I clicked around and some of them even don't exist outside of strathspeycrown. Several of them have just plain placeholder sites.


I think it’s funny that the portfolio page has a quite by Daniel Pink. Pink is like a pop culture, Malcolm Gladwell type. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it also doesn’t really provide ethos from an established authority.

Picking quotes is interesting, I think, as it gives a sense of the author and what the author values.


But the interesting part is that at least some of the people involved in these companies seem real (e.g. https://www.linkedin.com/in/amira-val-baker-47047123/)


One of the products seems to be real and FDA approved.

https://www.drugs.com/newdrugs/fda-approves-jeuveau-prabotul...


I don’t understand what it supposedly does that’s any different/better than Botox?


The text suggests whatever it is, it’s close enough to botox for it not to matter.


Real people, fronting unreal businesses. Here is their head of Business Development, Designer, and Cryptography Advisor

https://www.linkedin.com/in/adamapollo/


Another page on achievement from the same group.

https://resonance.is/resonance-academy-faculty/

Including Mr. Apollo

After having a vision of the Universe as a fractal hologram at the age of 15, he extensively studied a wide variety of branches in theoretical astrophysics, completing major research papers on the potential interface between consciousness and the physics of space-time by the time he graduated High School.


His website is worth a look: https://www.adamapollo.com/

I'm going to sample a couple of his 27 albums. The cover art alone is a thing to behold.

EDIT - I'm beginning to think we've got this all wrong.

It's not a scam - it's a cult.


Found another one from the previous link for a more HN friendly topic, a social network.

https://core.network/

What is fascinating is that the partner organization are always referencing other organization in the same "network", so it looks impressive but it is always the same 10-15 people.

For example compare the team https://hiup.org/people/ with https://resonance.is/resonance-academy-faculty/ which is mostly the team of the Robert grant's company https://torustech.com/team/

And going down the rabbit hole, the Time AI trailer has some visual similarity to :

http://getconnected.resonance.is/#

A 2016 documentary pushed by Resonance Academy and Unify about all people being connected, which is also the mantra of torus tech (because obviously they are the same people...)

And if you look at the (paid) delegate program of the resonance academy (https://academy.resonance.is/), in the list of module down the page, you'll find Robert Grant and Adam Apollo.

Here is the module from Robert Grant: https://academy.resonance.is/language-of-light/

>This course attempts to unlock the mysteries of science and esoterica from a wholistic perspective, combining history and ancient sites, ageless symbology, polymathic philosophy, biology, musical theory and alchemy.

>We also explore the practical application of these mathematical discoveries and how they can be utilized along with hertz EMGR (Electro-Magneto-Gravito-Radiativity) to better understand time, the Inverse Square Law, biology, DNA genotypic and phenotypic expression, vacuum energy and matter transmutation.

So it is all circular referencing, but honestly this is kinda fascinating.


The main site links to the following project:

https://galacticfamily.net/

Galactic Fundamentals

Want to find out more about the Extraterrestrial Species who populate this Galaxy, learn how to make Contact, and explore the depth of your own personal relationship with the Stars?

We're still populating all the areas of this site with amazing content, but get on our list to be notified about our upcoming deep dives and contact experiences.

I mean, this doesn't quite say "come and talk to aliens" but "learn how to make Contact" does sound like promising something currently impossible.


I think the 4th picture in the first carousel is a desktop background I had once.


Looking around, all of the LinkedIn profiles I could find for these people look suspiciously empty and suspiciously similar. Most of them have only worked at companies closely related to that parent company.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/maritza-banda-116806120 / https://www.linkedin.com/in/victoria-foster-039805111 / https://www.linkedin.com/in/amy-nangle-b60255173


Strathspey Clown


I don't have a link handy but I came across a statement on their website earlier mentioning that they are mostly funded by doctors.


Their press release about prime numbers suggests that they are trying to convince doctors to invest. From https://strathspeycrown.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/SC_Pr...:

> "The firm's subsidiaries and investors include board certified physician specialists across key medical specialties, including plastic surgery, ophthalmology, dermatology, dentistry and orthopedics. Strathspey Crown is focused on working with physician investors to bring to market innovative technologies and services in the self-pay sector of the lifestyle healthcare market."


Some of their portfolio companies seem centered around Irvine, CA and Newport Beach and/or focus on plastic surgery and "wellness" marketing. Seems to me that this is a very well architected investor scam that maybe finds a legit investment from time to time, but is primarily organized around liberating small individual investors from their money.


I'm getting an odd Wolf of wall street vibe from this. It's like the script were taken as inspiration for the branding.

Crown sterling = Stratton Oakmont = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPVMfGzXZP8

Stratton's logo is a lion. Crown Sterlings logo is a lion. The style of presentation is the same: start with axioms that are hard to argue with. Use it to build trust, then when they're listening segway into the real bs.

Building trust = https://youtu.be/dCANT0nG3bY?t=36

"First we pitch them disney, at & T, ... blue chip stocks exclusively. companies these people know. once we've suckered them in we unload the dog shite. pink sheets, the penny stocks, where we make the money."

They're doing the same thing but with encryption. Ofc, no one understands encryption directly so they talk abstractly about entropy and appeal to authority. After that comes the bs. The only part that seems missing from this is what they're shilling for and they're already gathering emails.

Oops. I was going to say they missed the crucial ingredient which is to create FOMO -- or fear of missing out. But they got that right too by implying existing encryption was somehow flawed or broken. People would have to sign up or risk their 'data liberty.' Nicely done.

I'll be surprised if this isn't to hype a blockchain-related project. IOTA 2.0.


When several companies like this one look related and are trying to push some of their "products" into a pro market, it really smells like a money laundering scheme. I have seen schemes like this one in South-America, Brazil specifically, related to "religious" indoctrination. Hope someone in USA investigates this. It looks well funded.


The funny thing about this is that everyone knew this talk was happening, and that it was going to be batshit; it was a hot Slack topic for a day a few weeks ago, and the day of the talk, people were excitedly talking about making to that talk so they could gape and heckle.

I don't know precisely what happened to change this from comedy to controversy, but it definitely started with JP Aumasson's livetweet of the presentation going viral. So I guess I blame twitter.


One of their sister companies actually sells healing crystals: https://arkcrystals.com/


"Replicating the magnetohydrodynamics naturally occurring in a variety of astrophysical objects, which couples plasma modes to the harmonic structure of the quantum vacuum — the Harmonic Flux Resonator (HFR) replicates and transfers quantum energy."

... it says on the website and then it links on to a website which offers energy derived from vacuum:

Vacuum Energy

Energy extracted directly from the vacuum. Nothing to burn, nothing to consume, nothing to destroy. No fumes, no toxins, no limitations. Nothing short of a paradigm shift which will alter the course of human kind forever.

https://torustech.com/technology/

Is it one of those websites that is really marketing for a new sci-fi show?


> Energy extracted directly from the vacuum. Nothing to burn, nothing to consume, nothing to destroy. No fumes, no toxins, no limitations.

So, it is nothing. Shieeet I wish I could sell nothing to people for money.


It is a free energy machine / perpetual motion machine. That is always good if you are tech investor to have that sort of thing in your portfolio :-D


> the Harmonic Flux Resonator

That's hilarious, I'd swear I've heard that on Star Trek Next Generation an age ago!


Wasn't that the thing that powered the DeLorean in Back to the Future?


Naah, that was a much more normal "flux capacitor", and it was only "fluxing":

>Time circuits on, Flux Capacitor ... fluxing, Engine running All right.


Giving a sponsored talk at a conference that attracts a lot of experts in the field is an interesting attempt at hacking, had they gotten away with it they would have had that much more bragging rights while trying to land investor money.

Outright scams are pretty rare but I've come across them a couple of times in the last decade, it always amazes me that investors would even begin to consider them.


In an era of kickstarter scams I'm not sure that there's that much of a difference between this and "getting away with it". I get that vetting sponsored talks is hard from a BH perspective but... just looking at how the presenter downplays this in their twitter responses, I'm pretty sure they'll use it for bragging rights anyway. Just like they apparently claim to have published something with an arxiv paper.

It is pretty doubtful that anybody will remember this incident in a month when they pitch it to a non-technical crowd, worst case for them is using a slightly different name to avoid superficial search engine due diligence.


They might even use the 'Secrets that Black Hat does not want you to know' angle to their advantage.


It reminds me of the Steorn / Orbo free energy machine. They were so confident they bought a whole page ad in the Economist and setup a public demo of their device.

At some point, you don't know if they are scammers or if they have deluded themselves so hard they believe it.


"The author will show that when applying this simple operation to magical numbers, and to many other groups of numbers, an amazing world of hidden interconnections; repetition cycles; numerical symmetries; and geometrical patterns emerge. Especially when the geometrical (the circle) and the numerical aspects of the digital root world are combined together. It is in this circular/numerical world where numbers, individually and collectively, exist in their most basic, yet perfect and symmetrical states, and where the basic nine numbers are differentiated into three groups of amazing properties, which will be shown to underlie the essence of the whole universe; from the atom and its forces to the solar system and its geometry."

Right....


> Usually, talks submitted to Black Hat go through a thorough approval process managed by a review board of industry experts. But, as in this case, companies can also pay to play and get these sponsored talks, which are not vetted for quality.

That just seems ripe for abuse like this. I'm surprised this hasn't happened before.


Of course this has happened before. It's just usually nobody who has a clue cares about these sponsored talks.

Do you think all the other products they pitch there live up to the promises made? This is just a bit extreme in its wording, so it's causing attention.


The main filter is the expense -- I don't see "sponsored talks" listed with a price-tag online, but I'd guess about USD $20000.

There's plenty of boring, possibly snakeoil security products that get peddled every year. Usually they must have some foundation in reality to be able to pay Blackhat.


Interesting move trying to push snake-oil in a room full of SMEs.


Yeah, selling snake-oil encryption to a group of professional infosec researchers and cryptographers? Do they even a have brain...


Maybe they just wanted to be able to say they spoke at BH and maybe a short clip to put on their site?

Most bad or boring presentations are not called out publicly on several media.


I'm guessing there aren't all that many cryptographers at blackhat; that's quite a different specialty, isn't it? Then again, is also pays to know enough about cryptography to at least identify poorly applies crypto, so there are likely enough people in attendance with surprisingly in-depth knowledge even if crypto isn't technically their specialty.


You don't have to be a medical expert to recognize that a guy selling crystal-infused snake oil probably hasn't found the cure to cancer.


Thomas Pornin and JP Aumasson were at the talk, Thomas because he's crypto review board (along with a bunch of other cryptography people, many also in attendance) and JP because he spoke at the conference this year.

We have a pretty strong cryptography program going on at Black Hat. I think we might be the best industry offensive crypto conference at this point.


> I'm guessing there aren't all that many cryptographers at blackhat; that's quite a different specialty, isn't it?

Well, it's not "quite a different specialty" in the same sense that zoology is quite a different specialty from what you would expect at Black Hat. There's some overlap between cryptography and Black Hat.


Yes, it was what I meant to say.


Plenty of "security professionals" buy snake oil by the tanker full


You don't need to be a cryptographer or even in the computer science field. One look at that hilarious promo video by any layman with any common sense is enough to see total bs that it is. I couldn't stomach to watch it all the way through.


The only thing they missed in that video is a mention of "blockchain".


https://www.robertedwardgrant.com/about

That's Robert Grant's personal website. Check it out. It's hilarious.


I find it a bit depressing, really.

He has multiple publications in unified mathematics and physics related to his discoveries of quasi-prime numbers (a new classification for prime numbers), the world’s first predictive algorithm determining infinite prime numbers, and a unification wave-based theory connecting and correlating fundamental mathematical constants such as Pi, Euler, Alpha, Gamma and Phi.

This is his publications page:

https://www.robertedwardgrant.com/publications

There is one preprint on arxiv and the rest seem to be self-hosted. So "multiple publications" seems to mean "stuff I put on the internet". The titles of the articles are also very hard to take seriously. "Four-Fold Mirror-Symmetry Inherent to the Icositetragon Distribution of Numbers" sounds like something that should be submitted to "The Journal of the Numerology Society" (A. Crowley ed.) and "Unified Mathematics, Geometry and Music" is basically a collection of occult diagrams.

Also: typeset in MS Word.


> Additionally, he has attended the President’s Seminar at Harvard Business School ('09-'16)

I can only assume it refers to this: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/event/harvard-seminar-new-presid...

Which is just an $8K six day seminar for college presidents who have no experience. But since he went 8 times, I guess that makes him a "Harvard Man".


> He was formerly CEO and President of Bausch and Lomb Surgical in June of 2010.

So he was in the position for... one month? Am I reading that correctly?


From this it seems he was there at least until 2011: https://news.chapman.edu/2011/05/16/jerry-lewis-among-commen...

PR when he was appointed in 2010: https://www.biospace.com/article/releases/bausch-and-lomb-na...

Clearly the guy made a fortune from Botox, knows how to leverage that success and build an organization around buzzwords that attract investor money.

To be fair, is that any worse than Silicon Valley VC?


He's linked a TEDx talk of his. Kinda figures. I suppose he couldn't tell the difference between that and a proper conference.


> I suppose he couldn't tell the difference between that and a proper conference.

Most people can't. At this point I've basically given up on trying to correct people that call TEDx talks TED talks.


there are good TEDx talks though and also several pretty low quality TED talks.


Here's a full portfolio of snake oil "companies" that these guys (or this guy?) engage in:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8paZWjiJIk8


For me, the best stream of Twitter comments about this is this one where the company claims that no Encryption algorithms are peer reviewed and then, several people working for legitimate companies tell them that's just bollocks:

https://mobile.twitter.com/Robert_E_Grant_/status/1160226095...


Did anyone back up the video before it got taken down?


Why did Black Hat delete it, rather than making snide comments about it? A video of people laughing at the speaker would have been great.


Blackhat ought to make a statement about it, otherwise the Time AI weirdos will just abuse Blackhat's brand unchecked online.


..it's ironic that a conference about having the freedom to explore and tinker censors a video they don't like.

If it's a scam, I want to see it for myself.


The speaker('s company) paid a hefty price for him to be there to present. Black Hat doesn't wanna dissuade any other potential vendors from not giving them their money.


I feel like you could make the same case for not loudly renouncing "Time AI". If Black Hat were to stand by this sponsor, I would wonder if other potential sponsors might actively withhold funds specifically to avoid being associated with "Time AI". Like the YouTube adpocalypse -- the media storm around certain kinds of content made advertisers uncomfortable with being associated with that content.


Well part of the point with sponsors is to find someone that can make money without 'selling out' and doing major damage to themselves as a conference brand. "Time AI" isn't paying nearly enough money to be worth the damage that not renouncing them would do.


I think dissuading these sorts of people would be a win for everybody, at least it puts the bar a little higher for the next company who is buying themselves a spot.


Black Hat publicly disavowed the talk. Tell us more about what Black Hat does and doesn't want to do?


Vet talks in advance, apparently.


Black Hat has a 50+ person review board that vets actual talks. This is a room they rented to some random person, not a Black Hat talk.


Sure it's not documentary makers seeing how far they can take it? This looks like a piss-take.


the team page supports your point ( https://www.crownsterling.io/2019/05/alan-green/ ):

"Alan [...] dedicated the last fifteen years to decrypting mathematical codes in Shakespeare’s writings that have revealed unknown sacred geometry hidden in the pyramids of Giza."

i don't think anyone will invest so much time into such a bungled attempt of con-artistry, so this does look more like a (costly) hoax.

maybe it is intended to discredit certain players in SecOps, Sokal-affair-style ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair ).


It's more likely to be along the same lines as the Nigerian Prince scam emails. They look absolutely ridiculous to anyone with the slightest ability to critically think about the situation. Those aren't the people they're targeting, though.


even in the Nigerian prince mails they don't go out of their way to give the prince a biography that could have been written by Erich von Däniken.


I don't get why we give this so much attention. The authors are clearly kidding, mentally ill, or have a purpose beyond my understanding (this can't be the easiest way to launder money).


The purpose is to make money selling snake oil, not anything more complicated than that.


This kind of attention is great for us, bad for him. Now there's a PC Mag, Vice, and Gizmodo article indexed high up on Google when you search Time AI that debunks him.


It would be fun if this turned out to be a Sokal-style prank to illustrate the reputational risks to conferences of accepting sponsored talks.


purpose beyond my understanding

Depending on the purpose, this might need more attention.


Here's a instagram post from the founder:

https://scontent.cdninstagram.com/vp/1ba57134a58455de0595824...

Also look at his papers. He likes to draw a lot instead of doing math.


It reminds me of the "math stuff" from Aronofsky's movie "PI"...with the exception that I enjoyed "PI".

ghthor 71 days ago [flagged]

You're an asshole. Geometric relationships between numbers are doing math.


Personal attacks will get you banned here, so please don't post like this again. Your comment would be just fine without the first sentence.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Sometimes I think there should be a law that states products should be accurately described in advertisements.

If such a law were enacted, this product might be called Fucked Up Encryption. I say that because the first law of encryption is that you don't roll it yourself. You can build things that use known encryption in non-standard ways, and even that can lead to things that were unexpected - like side channel attacks.


I think this guy will be eating out on "getting shutdown for telling the truth" for years to come. Just looking at the kinds of things this guy has done on youtube, yeah...they are definitely in the whole "mainstream science is a conspiracy camp".

The whole pyramids thing is hilarious...I can't remember who coined the term, but "pyramidiots" is my favorite.


Their intro video is really well-produced. If I had landed on it without any context, I would've thought it was a new Netflix show:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd_2HwAmge8


The holding/parent company[0] has lots of other interesting ventures

[0] https://strathspeycrown.com/


Reminds me of this music video: https://youtu.be/hKosaf5tmpI

... I can't imagine this being serious


Reminds me a bit of https://timecube.2enp.com/


It's like TimeCube guy had wealthy parents or something like that.


Did anybody catch an archive/mirror of the talk? I want to watch it for entertainment value


I find it not ideal from Blackhat to remove this talk.

They paid to speak, so why not leave it at that. In many ways the guy hacked Blackhat with a few thousand dollars, which is kinda noteworthy.

This guy certainly gets all the attention he wanted by Blackhat removing the video.


Perhaps he’s from the future. But I’d guess he’d say, “Only _time_ will tell.”


Upvoted for more dad jokes on HN.


Yeah, tough crowd. Pulled the quote right from that promo reel.


[flagged]


Vice? Looks great on mine.


On desktop/chrome, it almost gave me a seizure, as the Twitter video element is "shaking" ever so slightly, and when scrolled more down, the rest of the page elements where shaking/vibrating too. Definitely altered my psyche, which is interesting.




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