Palantir Executive Reveals How Silicon Valley Really Works

March 5, 2018

I usually ignore the talking heads on the US television cable channels. I did perk up when I heard a comment made by Alex Karp, one of the founders of Palantir Technologies. The company’s Gotham and Metropolitan product lines (now evolved to a platform called Foundry), its licensing deals with Thomson Reuters, and the company’s work for commercial organizations is quite interesting. Most consumers and many users of high profile online services are unaware of Palantir. Some click centric outfits like Buzzfeed rattle the Palantir door knob with revelations about the super low profile company. The reality is that Palantir is not all that secret. In fact, a good online researcher can unearth examples of the company’s technology, including its plumbing, its interfaces, and its outputs. Dig further, and one can pinpoint some of the weaknesses in the company’s technology, systems, methods, and management approach.

In the CNBC interview, which appeared as an online story “CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Palantir Technologies Co-Founder & CEO Alex Karp Joins CNBC’s Josh Lipton for Rare Interview Airing Today,” I noted several insights. Critics of Palantir might describes these comments in another way, but for me, I thought the ideas expressed were interesting and suggestive.

Here’s the first one:

I believe that Silicon Valley is creating innovation without jobs, and it’s really hurting our world.

I read this to mean that if one cannot get hired in a world infused with smart software, job hunters and seekers are dead in the water. Those homeless people, by extension, will replicate the living conditions in shanties in Third World countries. Most Silicon Valley cheerleaders sidestep what is a massive phase change in society.

The second statement I noted is:

Realize that most Silicon Valley companies don’t care and nor do they have a corporate responsibility to care.

For me, Mr. Karp is making clear that chatter from FAGMA (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple) about doing the right thing, trying to be better, and accepting the responsibility which falls upon the shoulders of quasi-monopolies is just that—chatter. Palantir, it seems, is a critic of the Silicon Valley way. I find this fascinating.

The third statement I circled is:

We are primarily a creative organization, so that means we create, we try not to look at what other people are doing, or obviously not overly.

This statement does not hint at the out of court settlement with i2 Group. The legal dust up, which I discussed in this post, was not mentioned by either the interlocutor or Mr. Karp. The omission was notable. I don’t want to be skeptical of this “creative organization” phrase, but like many people who emerged from the start up scene, the “history” of innovation often has an important story to tell. But unless the CNBC interviewer knows about the allegations related to the ANB file format and other Analysts Notebook functions, the assertion creeps toward becoming a fact about Palantir’s innovation. (Note: I was an adviser to i2 Group Ltd., before the company’s founders sold the enterprise.)

The original interview is interesting and quite revelatory. Today, I believe that history can be reshaped. It’s not fake news; it’s a consequence of how information is generated, disseminated, and consumed in an uncritical way.

Stephen E Arnold, March 5, 2018

The Next Stage in Information Warfare: Quantum Weaponization

February 20, 2018

We have been tracking the emergence of peer to peer technologies. Innovators have been working to deal with the emergence of next generation mainframe computing architectures like those available from Amazon, Facebook, and Google. The idea is that these new mainframes have popped up a level and are using software to integrate individual computing devices into larger constructs which are command and control systems.

Examples of the innovations can be found in the digital currency sector with the emergence of IOTA like systems. There are other innovation nodes as well; for example, discussed in online publications like Medium, technical fora, and implemented by outfits like Anonymous Portugal.

One of the popular methods used by my former colleagues at Halliburton Nuclear Utility Services was to look at a particular problem. The nuclear engineers would then try to fit the problem into a meta-schema. The idea was that a particular problem in some nuclear applications could not be tackled directly. A nuclear engineer tried to find ways to address the problem without poking the specific issue because once probed, the problem morphed. Hence, the meta-method was more useful.

Here’s a diagram which I think shows one facet of the approach:

See the source image

The idea is to come at a problem in different way. Edward de Bono called it “lateral thinking.” For me, the idea is to pop outside a problem, not in two dimensions, but three or four if time plays a part. Maybe “meta-thining” or “meta-analysis”?

What’s ahead for “the Internet” is what I conceptualize as urban warfare in the online world.

Non-traditional approaches to security, messaging, and data routing will combine to create a computing environment that’s different. Smart software will allow nodes or devices to make local decisions, and then that same smart software will use random message pathways to accomplish a task like routing. The difference between today’s concentrated Internet will be similar to Caesar’s Third Legion engaging in urban warfare. Caesar’s troops have swords; the urban fighters have modern weapons. Not even mighty Caesar can deal with the mismatch in technology.

Several observations:

  1. More robust encryption methods will make timely sense making of intercepted data very, very difficult
  2. Smart software will create polymorphic solutions to what are today difficult problems
  3. The diffusion of intelligent computing devices (including light bulbs) generate data volumes which will be difficult to process for meaningful signals by components not embedded in the polymorphic fabric. (Yes, this means law enforcement and intelligence entities).
  4. The era of the “old” Internet is ending, but the shift is underway. The movement is from a pointed stick to a cellular structure filled with adaptable proteins. The granularity and the “intelligence” of the tiny bits will be fascinating to observe.

In one sense, the uncertainty inherent in many phenomena will migrate into online.

The shift is not inherently “bad.” New opportunities will arise. The shift will have significant impacts, however. Just as the constructs of the industrial age have been reshaped by the “old” Internet, the new polymorphic, quantum-ized Internet will usher in some interesting changes.

Is digital Ebola replicating now, gentle reader?

Stephen E Arnold, February 20, 2018

Digital Currencies: Now You Have It, Now You Do Not

February 2, 2018

We noted an interesting assertion in “Cryptocurrency ICOs: It’s Impossible to Police What You Can’t See.” The passage points attention to the ease with which initial coin offerings and tokens can be converted into “scams.” We noted:

ICOs have paved the way for so-called “exit scams,” in which fake companies launch an ICO and make off with investor proceeds. BitConnect is one of the latest companies which wound up its exchange operations, crashing the price of its BitConnect Coin (BCC) in the process. Investors were promised converted funds in BCC, but as their original investment had to be made in ETH, they have suffered countless losses as BCC’s value crashed and burned, leading many to believe the whole system was a scam — and one, unfortunately, which has cost its investors millions of dollars.

We loved this quote, attributed to Arianne King, managing partner and Solicitor Advocate of Al Bawardi Critchlow:

“It’s hard to police what you can’t even see.”

The Beyond Search DarkCyber research team would like to point out that modest strides have been made in deanonymizing some activities related to digital currencies.

The write up pointed out:

Investor cryptocurrency funds can be whisked away to multiple wallets and potentially “washed” through Dark Web services to become extremely difficult to track, and without cold, hard currency in a scammer’s bank account, little can be done.

Online is an interesting “environment,” fostering fake news, teen anxiety, and good old fashioned fraud.

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2018

Casetext: A Disrupter

January 21, 2018

Legal information is of interest to legal eagles. However, a business move by Casetext may cause pain at professional publishing shops operated by LexisNexis and Westlaw. Both companies pride themselves on their technology savvy. But a four year old company may have become the little engine that could run over executives napping on the train tracks.

According to a company statement:

Casetext’s new Holdings feature is the largest searchable collection of concise case summaries ever assembled. To create Holdings, Casetext applied a tactic they call “judicial language processing,” exploiting patterns within the case law corpus to excerpt summaries directly from judicial opinions. Holdings is invaluable for any attorney looking to quickly familiarize herself with the crux of a judicial opinion and nimbly compare and contrast similar holdings across a particular area of law.

To add to the competitive thrust, Casetext uses smart software which seems to be a competitive advantage.

Founded in 2013, Casetext has attracted more than $20 million in venture funding.

Worth watching how this battle of legal eagles plays out.

Stephen E Arnold, January 21, 2018

Online: Welcome to 1981 and 2018

January 8, 2018

I have been thinking about online. I met with a long-time friend and owner of a consumer-centric Web site. For many years (since 1993, in fact), the site grew and generated a solid stream of revenue.

At lunch, the site owner told me that in the last three years, the revenue was falling. As I listened to this sharp businessperson, I realized that his site had shifted from ads which he and his partners sold to ads provided by automated systems.

From direct control to the ease of automated ad provision created the current predicament: Falling revenue. At the same time, the mechanisms for selling ads directly evolved as well. The shift from many industry events to a handful of large business sector conferences took place. There were more potential customers at these shows, but the attendance shifted from hands-on marketers to people who wanted to make use of online automated sales and marketing systems began to dominate.


He said, “In the good old days of 1996, I could go to a trade show and meet people who made advertising and marketing decisions based on experience with print and TV advertising, dealer promotions, and ideas.”

“Now,” he continued, “I meet smart people who want to use methods which rely on automated advertising. When I talk about buying an ad on our site or sponsoring a section of our content, the new generation look at me like I’m crazy. What’s that?”

I listened. What could I say.

The good, old days maybe never existed.

I read “Facebook and Google Are Free. They Shouldn’t Be.” The write up has a simple premise: Users should pay for information.

I am not certain if the write up realizes that paying for online information was the only way to generate revenue from digital content in the past. I know that partners in law firms realize that running queries on LexisNexis and Westlaw have to allocate cash to pay for the digital information about laws, decisions, and cases. For the technical information in Chemical Abstracts, researchers and chemists have to pay as well. Financial data for traders costs money as well.

Read more

Internet Wake Up: You Have Overslept

December 27, 2017

On a call yesterday, I agreed to do three talks for a law enforcement and intelligence conference company. On that call, one of the individual’s said:

The Internet has become a problem for investigators.

No disagreement from the ArnoldIT contingent who has been engaged for many years in tracking cyberOSINT, the Dark Web, the tools for thwarting Fullz, etc. I don’t think the “problem” will become easier to solve in the coming months.

Electronic data is tough to contain even when a nation state clamps down on telcos, ISPs, users, and Web site owners.

I found “My Internet Mea Culpa” a bit surprising because I assumed that most people had figured out that digital information is not exactly the happy grandmother viewing her daughter’s second birthday party on a mobile phone.

I noted this passage:

For the last twenty years, I believed the internet prophets of old. I worshipped at the altar of Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly. I believed that the world would be a better place if everyone had a voice. I believed that the world would be a better place if we all had no secrets. But so far, the evidence points to an escapable conclusion: we were all wrong.

Yep, but today’s Internet has been around for a long time.

Read the full “mea culpa.”

Enjoy the implications of this statement:

What if Silicon Valley’s core beliefs — even the benign ones — are wrong?

Science club methods are not for grandmothers. Never will be.

How many artists were in my high school science club?

Exactly zero.

And there was a reason. When “Revenge of the Nerds” was a thing, I for one thought, “Now we’re talking.” Grandmothers did not get it. Never will.

In my experience, the Google-types “got it” from the git-go.

Stephen E Arnold, December 27, 2017

Internet Routing: Worth Noting

December 13, 2017

Short honk: I read “Major Traffic Destinations Rerouted to Russia.” The main idea is that an event routed traffic to Russia. Worth noting if you are interested in cyber operations. Monitoring is practiced in many locations and countries. Traffic flow routes are important for some operations.

Stephen E Arnold, December 13, 2017

Mitsubishi: Careless Salarymen or Spreadsheet Fever?

November 27, 2017

I read “Mitsubishi Materials Says Over 200 Customers Could be Affected by Data Falsification.” Source of the story is Thomson Reuters, a real news outfit, in my opinion.

The main point of the story is to reveal that allegedly false data were used to obfuscate the fact that 200 customers may have parts which do not meet requirements for load bearing, safety, or durability.

When I was in college, I worked in the Keystone Steel & Wire Company’s mill in Illinois. I learned that the superintendent enforced on going checks for steel grades. I learned that there is a big difference between the melt used for coat hanger wire and the melt for more robust austenitic steel. Think weapons or nuclear reactor components made of coat hanger steel.

Mislabeling industrial components is dangerous. Planes can fall from the sky. Bridges can collapse. Nuclear powered submarines can explode. Or back flipping robots to crush Softbank/Boston Dynamic cheerleaders and an awed kindergarten class.

Reuters calls this a “quality assurance and compliance scandal.” That’s a nicer way to explain the risks of fake data, but not even Reuters’ olive oil based soft soap can disguise the fact that distortion is not confined to bogus information in intelligence agency blog posts.

Online credibility is a single tile in a larger mosaic of what once was assumed to be the norm: Ethical behavior.

Without common values regarding what’s accurate and what’s fake, the real world and its online corollary are little more than video game or Hollywood comic book films.

Silicon Valley mavens chatter about smart software which will recognize fake news. How is that working out? Now about the crashworthiness of the 2018 automobiles?

I think the problem is salarymen, their bosses, and twiddling with outputs from databases and Excel in order to make the numbers “flow.”

Stephen E Arnold, November 27, 2017

KFC: Colonel Faraday Sanders Is Not Online

November 26, 2017

I am proud to live in Kentucky. We have the University of Louisville occupying investigators’ time and energy. We have the exciting West End, which generates quite a bit of news each week. We have the Kentucky Fried Chicken (yum, yum, yum) Faraday cage milestone.

Here in Harrod’s Creek, the gang of geriatric squirrel hunters usually talks about Senator Mitch McConnell’s struggles or the Rand Paul fight with his neighbor. This morning, one of the tobacco chewing professionals drew my attention to “KFC Offering $10K ‘Internet Escape Pod’ Ahead of Cyber Monday.”

I am okay with the notion of Faraday cages, bags, and rooms. I have a Faraday bag myself. I stick my mobile phone in the bag and enjoy annoyance free drives to and from Lexington. (I use the UK library, gentle reader. The U of L makes me nervous when I think of the late, lamented president, the most wonderful basketball coach in the world, and an athletic director whose income makes some investment bankers envious.)

The write up informed me:

KFC’s Escape Pod is just one of several items the chicken chain made available on its new KFC Ltd. online shopping platform, which launched in July. Another collection of merchandise will reportedly be made available in early December, when it will become even more apparent that the executives at KFC have lost all interest in selling us chicken anymore.

What’s this $10,000 item look like? Here you go:


Kentucky deserves its reputation as an innovation center.

Nothing like a Faraday tent to make your chicken eating free of mobile phone calls. It also prevents an owner from uploading a picture of this odd ball product to Facebook.

Well, maybe not. KFC is making Kentucky great again!

Stephen E Arnold, November 26, 2017

Amazon: The New Old AT&T

November 22, 2017

I read “AWS Launches a Secret Region for the U.S. Intelligence Community.” The write up does a reasonable job of explaining that Amazon has become a feisty pup in the Big Dog in the upscale Potomac Fever Kennels.

The main idea, as I understand it, is that Amazon is offering online services tailored to agencies with requirements for extra security. Google is trying to play in this dog park as well, but Amazon seems to have the moxie to make headway.

I would point out that there are some facets to the story which a “real” journalist or a curious investor may want to explore; specifically:

  • AT&T of Ashburn fame may be feeling that the attitude of the Amazon youthful puppy AWS is bad news. AT&T with its attention focused on the bright lights of big media may be unable to deal with Amazon’s speed, agility, and reflexes. If this is accurate, this seemingly innocuous announcement with terms like “air gap” may presage a change in the fortunes of AT&T.
  • IBM Federal Systems, the traffic disaster in Gaithersburg, may feel the pinch as well. What happens if the young pup begins to take kibble from that Beltway player? A few acquisitions here and few acquisitions there and suddenly Amazon can have its way because the others in the kennel know that an alpha dog with tech savvy can be a problem?
  • The consulting environment may also change. For decades, outfits like my former employer, the Boozer, have geared up to bathe, groom, and keep healthy the old school online giants like AT&T, Verizon, et al. Now new skills sets may be required for the possible Big Dog. Where will Amazon “experts” come from? Like right now, gentle reader.

In short, this article states facts. But like many “real” news stories, there are deeper and possibly quite significant changes taking place. I wonder if anyone cares about these downstream changes.

Leftover telecom turkey anyone?

Stephen E Arnold, November 22, 2017

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta