Consciousness and cognition

My favorite definition of human consciousness is simply our access to a representation of parts of our internal mental states. In this post we’ll elaborate on this definition, from cognitive psychology’s point of view, and discuss a bit about possible applications for machine learning.

Continue reading


Security of Google’s Federated Learning

In this post I’ll collect some initial thoughts regarding the security of Google’s Federated Learning, which is a method for learning a model on a server where the clients do not send their data, but instead they send an updated model trained on their device with their own data.  The main points are:

  1. Knowing the clients update can give information on his training data.
  2. Knowing the average of some updates is likely to give information on each user’s update.
  3. If an attacker can send many updates, he can get information on a specific client.

The first two points are acknowledged briefly in the article.

Continue reading

A possible improvement for black-box adversarial example attack

This paper presents a cunning adversarial example attack on an unknown DNN model, with a small amount of black box calls to the model available (which happen before the input-for-deformation is given).  The algorithm is basically to build a different model, an adversarial DNN, with some arbitrary choice of architecture and hyper parameters, and learn the parameters on a data set given by oracle calls to the model. The choice of inputs to the oracle is made iteratively by taking the inputs from the previous iteration and choosing points close by that are the closest to the decision boundary of the last learned adversarial DNN.

I think it may be possible to improve the choice of the new inputs. The best choices for a new input are inputs such that they should have a big impact on the decision boundary, weighted by the probability distribution of possible inputs.

Several thoughts regarding “big impact on the decision boundary”:

  1. The work is entirely done during preprocess, as the (adversarial) model is known.
  2. Points near (at) the decision boundary are very good.
  3. A point on the decision boundary can be approximated in log-time.
  4. It may be possible to find good measures to the extent that a new input has changed the decision boundary.
    1. For example, maybe a form of regularization where we motivate changing as many parameters by as much as possible is good enough. (I guess not, but it is very simple to test)

Several thoughts regarding the probability distribution of possible inputs:

  1. It seems like a very important concept to understand deeply.
  2. It is probably heavily researched.
  3. If there is an available training set, it may be possible to approximate the manifold of the probable inputs.
    1. Maybe GANs can help with this problem.

10MA – Evolution strategies VS reinforcement learning

First, go and read this OpenAI blog post. Read it? good!

In the next 10 minutes, I’ll write as much as I can on my thoughts regarding the claims posed in the above mentioned post.

I have a slight cognitive dissonance.. I got used to thinking that RL is very good, and that the results obtained on the Atari games, for example, are extremely high. However, it seems that Evolution Strategies (ES), as are any type of “local search” methods, are so generic and simple, such that they should be the lowest standard for any machine learning algorithm.

Is it correct to take away from this that overall RL is just not very good, but that it’s success is mostly a story of fast supercomputers?

OpenAI mentions that these kinds of local search methods are not good for supervised learning. This means that we do have some tools which are much better than local search, but that they are not easily transferable.

A different explanation could simply be that the Atari games and OpenAI Gym-type games, are specific examples where RL algorithms are not working well. Maybe due to their small action space?

10MA – Security and Machine Learning

When training ML models, there can be some security aspects which are important. Here are some examples:

Some security goals.

  1. Training set privacy. An adversary which is familiar with the model, can not get “any” information on the data-points in the training set.
  2. Model secrecy. An adversary able to get predictions for any input by the model as a black-box, can not obtain information about the model parameters.
  3. Model reliability. The model should behave in a way that humans can predict.

Links to related attacks

  1. Membership Inference Attacks against Machine Learning Models
  2. Stealing Machine Learning Models via Prediction APIs
  3. Breaking Linear Classifiers on ImageNet

10MA – Should I do short analyses?

I’m trying to do a 10MA – “10 Minute Analysis”. The goal is to write the post in just 10 minutes, and see what comes out of it.

This post is about the benefits vs the downsides of making 10MAs. Hopefully we’ll reach some conclusion.

So why do I write these analyses anyway? The first, and most important, reason is for my self improvement. The second reason is because I am a big believer in sharing of knowledge and openess, and I hope some of what I plan to write here will be of use to other people later on.

Effects on my self improvement:

  • Trains intuitive analysis, and coming up with a variety of ideas, as opposed to thorough and more linear thinking. In general I am better at this kind of thinking.
  • Trains writing down quickly, and moving more thoughts to text. This is very important to me.
  • Less time to learn how to formulate coreectly.

Effects on what others will read:

  • Quantity instead of quality. probably not too bad, if I want to spread ideas and let others think for themselves.


This is fun, and can be helpful to do it together with deep analysis.

Single-use code for 3D printing

When 3D printers will be potent and cheap enough, they can make an enormous economical change. In this post I discuss the main reasons for this economical change, and ponder some technological concepts which may restrict it. I am not sure if this restriction is beneficial or not, as we’ll discuss in the summary.

Digitization ⇒ duplicability

If the information of the product is entirely digital, then there are two main consequences:

  • It will be easy to share the product p2p. We see this today in many areas, such as music, film or electronic books, where downloaded copies can be shared freely as torrents or in file sharing sites.
  • It will be easy to “use” the product more then once. We usually take it for granted that this has to be the case, as music. books and the like can be used repetatively once owned. Note that it is not a necessity, and in fact there are many alternatives such as leasing or radio

Economical implications

The impact of digitization is obviously huge, as can be seen in the case of the music industry. The analysis here is important and must be data driven, so it should take a more careful research on the topic which I will postpone.

A relevant question which is not analogue to the case in the music industry is “what are the implications of being able to generate an object more then once”? I’ll leave it open as well.

Single use code

The challenge is to find a way such that users can download a design online, and use it immediately to print the object, but  in such a way that the majority of users can not print the design again.

If the printer is stateless (that is, has no intrinsic memory), then sending the same packet over to the printer will result in the same action of the printer. Hence, even if the driver of the printer acts in different ways, a simple solution to be able to print the same thing many times is by sniffing the communication for the first “legal” print, and repeating it for the next prints. This can be automated somewhat easily, and the program for doing so can be made simple enough so that many users will use it. Thus, we need some level of sophistication in the driver-printer protocol to avoid this attack. It is also clear that the printer’s code and internal state needs to be unmalleable.

The naive idea of having the printer try to remember information about which models it had already printed (say by storing their hash values), and not allow to print the same model again. This is not good enough, as it is easy to make minor changes to the model so that it wont print in the same way. Even if the printer would have a clever algorithm which can tell if two models are the same, which is very hard to do efficiently, these kinds of protections can always be overcome.

We can try to use cryptography to make sure that the printer will not use the same code twice. Assume that the printer has a secret key shared with the printing company. Then whoever wants to publish their design for a unique printing will send it to the printing company, which has a platform for selling designs, and then anyone who buys the design gets it encrypted and signed so that only his printer can decrypt and authenticate the code for the model. In this case, the model can not be shared, and the hashing solution above can protect from duplication. This solution assumes that the vast majority of users will not open their printers and obtain the private key (which can be made extremely complicated). Another version is to sign on the model and the printer ID using public key cryptography, and have the printer only print what is verified as coming from the company and have the correct ID. This version is problematic, as the code itself will be visible.

The main technical problem with the above solution is that it does not allow for printing of free models, or home generated ones, and here is where it gets interesting. Just allowing for printing of unencrypted models has the inherent problem that it only takes one person who manages to recover his own key to be able to spread the model. However, it would still cost money, so it can be still quite good. Another problem is the managing of the keys, but it should be fine.


The above scheme is probably fine, but I think a better solution is possible. Eventually, the biggest problem for any such solution is that the printer manufacturer and the platform for the unique printing of models needs to work together, and create a large enough community of buyers and sellers so that new people will choose to but these specific printers.