All Press Releases for April 27, 2021

Michael Kounavis, PhD Gets the Star Treatment!

Dr. Kounavis explores cutting-edge technology as a research scientist

    NEW YORK, NY, April 27, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Michael Kounavis, PhD has participated in The Star Treatment, a prestigious video series hosted by renowned lawyer and television personality, Star Jones. This premier video series is extremely limited — Marquis Who's Who qualifies 500 listees on an annual basis for this elite service. Backed by a storied career in media that spans more than two decades, Star works closely with Marquis listees to assist with networking goals and commemorative efforts that can be shared with a worldwide audience.

For more than three decades, Dr. Kounavis has dedicated himself to the ever-evolving world of computer science, holding a particular expertise in the areas of cryptography and machine learning. Excelling as a research scientist, he is not only active as a researcher and educator in his field, but as a direct contributor to it, having co-invented the Intel Advanced Encryption Standard instruction set, called AES-NI, among others. Identifying patience, passion, and imagination as the keys to his success, Dr. Kounavis encouraged budding computer and data scientists that "We are in the middle of a big wave of exciting advances in science that are going to change the world…"

Growing up in Athens, Greece, Dr. Kounavis always gravitated toward technology and engineering, in large part due to his father, who was an electrical engineer by trade with a deep passion for mathematics and solving equations; while his mother was more artistic, she also greatly shaped him and his interests. As a teenager in the mid-1980s, he marveled at the newest technology of the age—the home computer, which, at the time, ran on an 8-bit microprocessor called Z80, which many people were awestruck by. While he admired everything surrounding it, he didn't yet see himself pursuing the field as a career; as the end of high school loomed and he began thinking about college enrollment, he thought he would want to either be an archaeologist or an architect. However, it was his high school sweetheart, and future wife, who urged him to study computer science—it didn't take long for him to fall in love with the subject.

Following his introduction to the field, Dr. Kounavis became fascinated by the work of Alan Turing and his concept of a machine that can execute any algorithm. As the field evolved, and processors and computing methods became more and more sophisticated, Dr. Kounavis would find himself returning to the concept, and to artificial intelligence.

Part of Dr. Kounavis' work has involved the implementation of a process known as the Advanced Encryption Standard, or AES. Essentially, this process involves the creation of a long sequence of numbers known as a key, but this key is only known to the people who communicate with each other. In this way, a third party would not be able to intercept communications, as the key would be required. As is the case with AI, the technology becomes more and more useful as processor speed increases and cryptography methods improve. The takeaway here, in Dr. Kounavis' view, is that at some point in the future, cryptography will become fast enough, so that malicious software (malware), would no longer be able to read the data that it steals. Of course, he notes, this will spur bad actors to use more sophisticated methods to work around this new technology. Frustratingly, cryptography and artificial intelligence can be seen as highly technical games of cat-and-mouse, with each side working tirelessly to gain an advantage over the other. Dr. Kounavis feels that the next step logically will be malware that is able to convincingly confuse AI or project a video image of a person. Indeed, the early stages of such programs are already in development, and the results can be seen in the form of so-called "deepfake" videos, which serve a similar function.

Despite the potential pitfalls of AI and machine learning, Dr. Kounavis sees a great deal of potential in the new technology. He compares it to a standard computer, which is very good at performing standard computations and combining sets of instructions into recipes called algorithms. A neural network, however, would do something different. It would remember and learn relationships between certain data points. A trained and interpretable neural network, for example, might scan an image of something metallic and shiny with four wheels, and determine that this may be a car. It will retain this association, so that it can associate future images that have similar features in the same way. The AI has effectively "learned" what a car is supposed to look like. This may not sound like much, but again, as methods of creating and refining this software improves, the applications of AI are limitless. Perhaps one day in the future, an AI will learn how to properly design a building, or operate on a human heart, and these tasks will be able to be accomplished much more quickly and efficiently than any human is capable of.

Apart from his career as a scientist, Dr. Kounavis is a devoted father, who takes a great deal of joy in spending time with his children and family. He is happy to be able to play games with his children and help with their studies, particularly when the subjects are challenging. He also has a passion for playing piano and writing music, which he describes as a way to let his creative energy flow in a different direction.

To close out the interview, Dr. Kounavis noted that for data scientists, patience, passion and imagination are all important factors. "We are in the middle of a big wave of advances in science that are going to change the world, really: so problems… like conventional malware may become obsolete, especially with advances in cryptology," he said. Dr. Kounavis was careful to note, though, that new problems may also arise as a result of these advances, such as making certain jobs obsolete. He is optimistic that our society will be able to adapt to these changes, but it will not be without difficulty. Overall, he notes, there is a wave of exciting things to come.

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