Loyd Blankenship and Patrick K. Kroupa: The legion of Doom

Step in the Hacking World:

A step in the hacking world takes a lot of courage, an intelligent approach, and a passion for technology and knowledge. It isn’t easy to be unique and test your boundaries and make it big as a hacking professional.

One of the top-notch hackers the world has witnessed includes two prominent names Loyd Blankenship and Patrick K. Kroupa.

 Loyd Blankenship stepped into the world in the 1970s when the hacking culture was escalating and growing in popularity. His association and membership in hacking groups, including Extassy Elite and Legion of Doom, gained him fame.

Patrick K. Kroupa is another eminent name in hacking history. The first time he was exposed to Cray supercomputers was at National Atmospheric Research NCAR. He was taught how to program in Fortran and feed the cray. Another event that changed his perception about technology and opened new vistas for him was TAP or counter-culture/Yippie meetings. During this time, Kroupa became a member of the Cracking crew known as The Apple Mafia. He was also associated with several other hacking groups, including Knights of Shadow.

Connection with the Legion of Doom:

Loyd Blankenship and Patrick K. Kroupa shared a mutual connection with the infamous hacking Legion of Doom. It is one of the most vigorous and influential hacking groups.

Loyd Blankenship joined the group in its early days. He joined it in 1988. He was known as The Mentor. He was among the second generation of the hacking group.

Loyd Blankenship contributed a lot to the hacking group. In 1989, Loyd was hired by Steven Jackson Games. He was the penman of the sourcebook called GURPS Cyberpunk. However, its manuscript was gripped by the US Secret Service and resulted in a raid. This also led to the subsequent arrest of Loyd Blankenship.

On the other hand, Legion of Doom was the last association of Patrick K. Kroupa. He joined Legion of Doom after Knight of Shadow broke after a series of arrests and raids. The remaining members decided to opt for Legions of Doom.

Writing Journey:

Another common aspect of the journey of both the hackers was their association with writing.

Loyd Blankenship gained the motivation to write and express his thoughts during his arrest. While experiencing hacking withdrawal and feeling empathy for his fellow hackers who also had to encounter similar situations, Loyd decided to express his thoughts. He felt the need to change the world’s perception of hacking. That’s when he wrote, The Hacker Manifesto. Initially, his work was published in Phrack ezine. Later on, it gained immense popularity and was found on various websites. It is considered a bedrock in the hacking culture and a guideline for new hackers.

Patrick K. Kroupa was also drawn towards writing during a low time in the history of computer underground due to the constant raids by the FBI. It was the same time when several members of Legion of Doom were arrested. Kroupa wrote Voices in my Head. It was considered the “Golden Age” of Cyberspace. 

Patrick has written various magazines like The Akashic Records of Cyberspace, Memoirs of a Cybernaut, and other medical journals.

In Media Culture:

Loyd Blankenship’s article has been viral in the media. It has been featured in various movies like  Hackers, The Social Network. 

It has also been published in Edward Snowden’s autobiography Permanent Record.

Patrick and his campaign and fight against Heroin addiction made him famous. He has been featured in over 100 books, Television programs, and even films. Patrick has been featured in a particular documentary film called Ibogaine: Rite of Passage.

The Conscience of a Hacker

The “hacker’s manifesto” and its background

In hacking culture, The Conscience of a Hacker holds a significant place. It overnight changed the world perspective of Hackers and heavily impacted the media. One of the first articles that kept a philosophical base of hacking culture. 

The Conscience of a Hacker, also called The Hacker Manifesto, is a small essay written by a computer security hacker, known by his pseudonym The Mentor. The Mentor was later identified to be Loyd Blankenship. The Mentor belonged to the group of hackers, Legion of Doom. This group was considered one of the most potent and proficient hacking groups. 

The Mentor was among the successors of the groups. He also served as a member of Extasyy Elite. The Mentor has been active since the 1970s, and from a computer hacker, he turned into a writer. 

Publication:

The Conscience of the Hacker was published on 8th January 1986. The essay was written soon after the arrest of The Mentor. The essay was first published in the ezine Phrack. Phrack is an ezine or online magazine which is specially dedicated to hackers. Phrack is considered one of the most eminent and running ezine.

Since the publication of The Conscience of a Hacker in Phrack, it gained popularity. Today, people can access it on various other websites. It is also found on T-shirts and in films. 

Inspiration for writing:

On being questioned about the inspiration for writing his infamous essay, The Conscience of a Hacker, the author stated that he had read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and was impressed by the revolutionary ideas it exuded.

At another public event, The Mentor talked about his motivation to write after his arrest. He said it built ’empathy’ for his fellow friends who have to encounter similar circumstances. Further, after the release of WarGames, the author felt a growing need to change the hackers’ public perception. Hence, the author chose to write The Conscience of a Hacker. 

Purpose of the essay:

The essay served some essential purposes for the hacking community. The essay aimed to perform the following purposes:

  • Guideline for hacking community:

The Conscience of a Hacker conveys some essential guidelines to the hacking community, especially beginners and those new to the fields. He has schooled his hacking comrades and explained their curiosity and thirst for knowledge.  

  • The ethical basis for hacking:

It also provides an ethical base for hacking and promotes ethical hacking. 

  • Positive usage of technology:

The essay also claims that the usage of the technology should not exploit or harm others. Instead, it should widen our perspectives and keep the world free. 

Adaptations:

The Conscience of a Hacker has gained acclaim since its first publication. It is considered a bedrock for the Hacker’s community and describes the philosophies of a Hacker. It grabbed the public eyeballs after its adaptation in various books and movies. 

Initially, it caught media attention in Hackers, a 1995 movie where it was quoted many times. 

The poster of The Conscience of a Hacker also features in The Social Network, a 2010 movie. The poster was displayed in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard room. 

The Mentor has also read his essay at H2K2, a conference held for Hackers in 2002, where he offered more insight into his essay. 

 The Conscience of a Hacker also features in the Autobiography of Edward Snowden called Permanent Record

The Neuralink Company

Outline of The Neuralink Company:

The marvels of technology and sciences have left the world completely astounded. Everyday, we are introduced to some innovative technological advances. Even in its emerging phases, there are a myriad of technologies that are sure to bring radical shifts in future.

One of the emerging and much-anticipated technological corporations is The Neuralink Company. It is a neuro-technological company based in San- francisco. It was established in 2016 and is co-founded by Elon Musk. The Company has hired Neuro-professionals and experts from the eminent Universities to take an upward quantum leap in Neurotechnology. Neuralink has already received a large sum of around $158 million for funding it’s research and work.

Goals of Neuralink:

The Neuralink Company has grabbed public eyeballs ever since its declaration that it will be working on communicating with human brains. In 2017, Neuralink announced that it will be working to build devices to treat serious brain complications like Alzheimer, dementia, paralysis and others. In recent years, Neuralink opened up more about making a device that will work like a sewing machine and implant threads in the brains.

The Neuralink Company also highlights that its neural implant is unique and different since it has all the requisite components required for a neural implant including a battery, processing chips and bluetooth devices and around 1000 electrodes. In this way, Neuralink tends to alter the regular brain machine interface procedures. 

Latest Innovations:

Neuralink has been experimenting with the neurons and technology for quite a while now. Recently, they have unveiled the following innovations that include:

Robots and Probes:

During a live presentation in 2019, Neuralink introduced the procedure of carrying out the brain implant that will involve ultra thin probes. These probes can detect brain signals through electrodes. The system consists upto 3072 electrodes per formation. 

The probes are inserted by robots specially made for insertion of probes. The robots can insert 6 probes per minute. 

Gertrude – The pig with the chip:

To further exhibit the applications of neurology interface, Neuralink in another live demonstration showed insertion of a chip in Gertrude- the pig’s brain. The chip was described as “Fitbit in your skull” and was designed to record the neural response of the pig. The chip sends wireless signals that show neural activity in her about when it looks for food. 

Monkey playing video games:

Just a few days back, Neuralink stole the limelight after introducing us with a monkey playing video games. In a short video released by Elon Musk, the monkey is first shown to play Pong using a joystick. A moment later, the money played the game with its mind after the joystick was disconnected. The astonishing part was the monkey wasn’t just able to play games telepathically but it even adapted to the given situations well. It showed great results with higher difficulty levels of the game. 

Criticisms:

The latest innovations have created a buzz everywhere. 

Some neuroscientists and MIT commented on the real intention behind Neuralink’s neurotechnology. 

A prominent neuroscientist, Mary Lou has voiced her views regarding the rejection reaction from the brain, on insertion of the probes.   

An American animal organization, PETA, has also shown concern over the experiments being performed on monkeys and pigs.

Future Expectancy:

Neuralink might not have been well-received by various scientific societies, however, it has a great potential to bring about a digital revolution. Looking forward, we can anticipate humans controlling mobiles, machines and devices through telepathy. Treatment of brain complexities can also be anticipated. In the long run, the symbiosis with artificial intelligence, is also expected to be achieved. It is exciting to see these innovations unfold in future. 

Social Media Facebook Algorithms

How do social media figure out what we like?

You’ve probably already noticed that social networks tend to suggest stuff that might be interesting to you. Sure, sometimes you get some really weird suggestions from Wish, but you probably found some really cool pages and even groups this way on Facebook, some interesting profiles on Twitter and Instagram, and maybe some interesting companies on LinkedIn.

But how does all that work? And, most importantly, why are things like that? Why did social networks change from a place to keep in touch with your friends and relatives into a way to discover new stuff you like and find like-minded people? Let’s take a look.

The Facebook business model

As you know, Facebook is free for users. You can create a profile, create groups and pages, connect with people, among other stuff, with no limitations.

So, where does the money come from?

From advertisement.

If you’ve ever created a Facebook page, you may have noticed you get immediately bombarded with notifications about creating ads for your page. For a rather small sum, you can promote any of your page’s posts and select which kind of people you want to reach: age range, gender, preferences, political positions, among many others. You can easily advertise even the most niche of pages.

The algorithm

But where does all of that information come from? Well, part of it comes directly from the user: date of birth, gender, relationship status, family, locations they went to and all that. Even if that information is restricted to yourself or just your friends in your profile, Facebook still has access to it and uses it to direct ads too.

Information about preferences also comes from you, but not directly. Facebook employs a machine learning algorithm designed to analyze the pages you like, the groups you are in, your posts and even your photos to find out what you like and what you don’t like.

Of course, finding out people’s preferences from their Facebook likes is no rocket science. If you enter someone’s profile and find a lot of likes on pages about hiking, then they clearly like hiking a lot. However, as of 2020 Facebook has more than 2.8 billion accounts. Nobody could possibly go through every single one of those everyday to update every user’s preferences in Facebook’s database.

Instead, the algorithm keeps track of your information and compares it with the patterns it already knows, and the usage patterns that other users have, and assigns to you some of the several categories it has figured out, while also creating and assigning more of those categories as time goes on.

Although Facebook jump-started this technology, most other social networks have adopted it too, such as Twitter and Instagram, allow their user base to grow exponentially and, with that, attract investments from many different kinds of companies.

Results

Of course, the technology is good, but it isn’t perfect. If you go to your Facebook profile’s privacy settings, you can find your ad preference settings, and within it the list of categories that Facebook has assigned to you. Most of them will probably be spot on, but others will be nonsense and some will probably be outdated already. It may, however, explain the kinds of ads you’ve been getting. Keep in mind that Facebook also tracks you across many of the websites you visit!

In some way, one may also regard the technology as being too good. During the last few years Facebook has been facing scrutiny for using the algorithm to do social experiments, including only showing to users the kind of political posts which would already agree with their perspectives. And also, for allowing other companies to use all that data for their own ends, which allegedly has led to more political extremism. Remember the Cambridge Analytica controversy? Yeah, that kind of stuff.

These kinds of things show the power of technology today. Even an imperfect machine learning algorithm may be able to sway people’s opinion. Who knows what may come next?