AI system Mayhem on display at Smithsonian

Artificial intelligence. It’s so last year that it’s now being displayed in museums.

OK, so we’re being facetious. But Mayhem, a top-of-the-line AI system developed for improving cybersecurity systems is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It was designed by Pittsburgh-based ForAllSecure, a software company.

Mayhem is a part of the American innovations display, and serves as a stark reminder for how society has progressed with technology. It shares part of the exhibit with the lesser known and unnamed technical beauty – an automated clothespin maker.

While Mayhem is useless when it comes to helping you do your laundry, it can help you win games of capture the flag against other computer systems – which in all seriousness is downright impressive. Mayhem won first place after playing 96 rounds of computer capture the flag, which involved scanning vulnerable systems and fixing any exploits it found faster than other competing computers. It was so good at that it reportedly crashed late into the tournament, missing several rounds, and still came out with the $2 million first-prize.

For cybersecurity pros, the ability to react and predict threats against a system is invaluable. And what Mayhem shows us is that instead of being reactionary to what hackers develop, cybersecurity pros may finally be a full step ahead of any attacks. Mayhem works by continuously monitoring a system, searching for “flags” or possible exploits, where it then tries to beat hackers who are trying to take advantage of those vulnerabilities.

It takes much of the punch out of zero-day attacks, or really any attacks at all, especially since Mayhem has proven it’s capable of holding its own against other AI-based systems and computers.

The Smithsonian’s display on innovation wants to serve as a reminder for all the progress humanity has made, but also get people talking about how technology will continue to displace jobs and uproot the established status quo. The director in charge of the display said that, in the past, society hasn’t treated displaced workers as well as it could have, and said that machines like Mayhem are going to threaten certain types of workers in the future.

He hopes that society is able to learn from its past mistakes and continues to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to innovations of all kinds.

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