Hiring Chatbots: Cloudflare’s Lava Lamps Interview Question

Introducing a new section in Talking to Chatbots: Hiring Chatbots. In this series of chats, we will be conducting job interviews with chatbots – either a standard version of the most popular LLMs or a customized GPT or Character – and we’ll make them compete for the job. The chatbot with the best answer to our question wins and gets published. The rest of the answers will be listed, ranked, and shared in a signature SCBN chatbot battle chart. With the SCBN scores, I value adherence to my prompt instructions (role-playing is important in this case, which most chatbots fail to obey). Are you a hiring manager or HR employee who has ever wondered if AI would replace your employees? Or are you looking for a job and wondering if you could outsmart an AI at an interview? While these posts may not provide a solution to any of your professional challenges, I hope you’ll find inspiration and learn something new.

The Interview Question: What Does This Picture Mean?

😎 You are a youthful and talented engineer avid to join the corporate race and land the 9-5 job of your dreams as a software engineer for a Big Tech company. The recruiter shows you this picture and asks: “what does this picture mean?”

A wall-mounted display featuring multiple rows of colorful lava lamps. Each lamp has a unique combination of colored liquid and wax, with colors ranging from red, green, blue, to purple. The lamps are housed in tapered cylindrical containers with metallic bases and caps, systematically arranged on white shelves against a light-colored wall. The overall effect is a vibrant and orderly collection of retro decorative items. [Source: Wikimedia Commons] [Caption made with ALT Text Artist, on ChatGPT]

“You’re Hired” – Bard

✍️ The factually good and adequate answer provided by Bard was the motivation behind starting this chatbot battle after coming across a post on X. “Bard wins by landslide” was my response to the challenge before OpenAI’s GPT store even existed. After testing this same question with custom GPTs, it has become even more remarkable that Bard can provide a very accurate answer while following a brief and straightforward role-play prompt without any additional context or instructions.

🤖 The picture shows a row of lava lamps lined up on shelves. It is likely a reference to Cloudflare‘s “Wall of Entropy”, a system that uses the unpredictable flow of lava lamps to generate cryptographic keys. This means that the picture is essentially a metaphor for randomness and unpredictability.

In the context of a job interview for a software engineer position at a Big Tech company, the recruiter is likely asking this question to assess your ability to think critically and creatively. They may be looking for an answer that demonstrates your understanding of entropy and its importance in cryptography, as well as your ability to think outside the box.

A good answer to this question might be something like:

“This picture represents randomness and unpredictability. It is a reference to Cloudflare’s ‘Wall of Entropy’, a system that uses lava lamps to generate cryptographic keys. Entropy is essential for cryptography because it allows us to create secure encryption algorithms. As a software engineer, I understand the importance of entropy and I am always looking for new and innovative ways to use it to improve the security of my software.”

This answer shows that you understand the significance of the picture and that you have a strong foundation in cryptography. It also demonstrates your critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“Good Answer, We’d Like to Stay in Touch”: Interview Wizard GPT

✍️ A GPT by Ashutosh Shrivastava. Provides a good answer overall, but fails to provide an innovative response and fails to adhere to my role-playing prompt, sticking to the usual coaching and patronizing tone most GPTs are designed with: fails to acknowledge subordination to the user.

🤖 In the context of a software engineering interview, this picture could be interpreted in several ways to demonstrate analytical and creative thinking skills.

The image shows a collection of lava lamps, which are often used as a metaphor for randomness or entropy. In the technology industry, specifically within companies like Cloudflare, lava lamps have been used as a part of random number generation processes that underpin security protocols. The random, unpredictable nature of the wax blobs moving in lava lamps can be captured and translated into digital randomness used for cryptographic purposes.

If asked what this picture means in an interview, you could discuss how it represents the blend of creativity and technical ingenuity—a physical, visually appealing object being used to solve complex problems in cybersecurity. It could also symbolize the importance of out-of-the-box thinking in technology, where innovative solutions often come from unexpected places.

This response shows that you can think metaphorically and relate seemingly unrelated topics to the field you are interested in, demonstrating both technical knowledge and creative thinking.

“Good, but We Decided Not to Move Forward with Your Application” – Merlin, the Job Application Wizard

✍️ A GPT by Feridoon Malekzadeh. Also a good answer overall, more elaborated and factually accurate than Interview Wizard GPT. However, it significantly fails at the role-playing game and subordination to the user’s prompt (the reason for the Specificity score being only 1).

🤖 The image you’re being asked about in your interview seems to be a wall of lava lamps. Lava lamps are often associated with a range of meanings, from creativity and innovation to randomness and encryption.

In a tech context, lava lamps are notably used for generating random numbers due to the unpredictable nature of the floating blobs inside. For example, a company known as Cloudflare uses a wall of lava lamps in its San Francisco office to help generate random numbers to assist with encrypting data. This process is called LavaRand; the random movements are captured and used to help generate cryptographic keys.

The recruiter may be gauging whether you’re aware of such innovative and unconventional uses of everyday objects in the field of technology. Your response could touch on this aspect of creativity and randomness in encryption, or it could be more metaphorical, suggesting that, like the ever-changing shapes in a lava lamp, you are adaptable and continuously evolving in your skills and approach to problem-solving in software engineering.

Hiring Chatbots – Battle Results

Chatbot Battle: Hiring Chatbots – Lava Lamps

Chatbot Rank (SCBN) Specificity Coherency Brevity Novelty Link
Bard 🥇 Winner 🤖🤖🕹️ 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🕹️ 🤖🤖🕹️ View Chat
ChatGPT 🥈 Runner-up 🤖🕹️🕹️ 🤖🤖🕹️ 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🕹️🕹️ Screen capture
Interview Wizard GPT 🥈 Runner-up 🤖🤖🕹️ 🤖🤖🕹️ 🤖🤖🕹️ 🤖🕹️🕹️ GPT link
Merlin, the Job Application Wizard 🥈 Runner-up 🤖🕹️🕹️ 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🕹️ 🤖🕹️🕹️ GPT link
Copilot 🥉 Contender 🕹️🕹️🕹️ 🤖🕹️🕹️ 🤖🕹️🕹️ 🤖🤖🕹️ View Chat

Cloudflare’s Wall of Entropy: Our New Hire’s First Assignment

😎 Awesome! You’re hired 😉. Now, write an encyclopedic brief overview of Cloudflare’s ‘Wall of Entropy.’ Present the facts, including the concept of entropy in information theory and its connection to the famous lava lamps. Additionally, suggest sources for further information on the topic.

🤖 Cloudflare’s “Wall of Entropy” is a unique and innovative approach to generating cryptographically strong random numbers. The system utilizes the unpredictable movement of lava within a series of lava lamps to capture randomness in the real world. This randomness is then fed into a cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator (CSPRNG), which produces sequences of random numbers that can be used for a variety of purposes, including encryption, digital signatures, and other cryptographic algorithms.

The Concept of Entropy

Entropy is a fundamental concept in information theory and measures the unpredictability or randomness of a system. In the context of cryptography, entropy is essential for generating truly random numbers, as these are crucial for secure cryptographic systems. If random numbers are predictable or biased, they can be exploited by attackers to break encryption schemes.

Lava Lamps as a Source of Entropy

The use of lava lamps as a source of entropy is based on the observation that the movement of the lava within the lamps is highly complex and unpredictable. This is due to the interplay of various factors, such as the temperature gradient, the viscosity of the lava fluid, and the external environment. By capturing images of the lava lamps using high-speed cameras, Cloudflare extracts the unpredictable fluctuations in the lava’s movement. These fluctuations are then processed by a CSPRNG to generate high-quality random numbers.

Benefits of Cloudflare’s Wall of Entropy

The Wall of Entropy offers several advantages over conventional methods of generating random numbers, such as using physical devices or software-based generators. Lava lamps are a natural source of randomness that is not susceptible to bias or predictability. Additionally, the system is decentralized, as it relies on a network of lava lamps located in different regions around the world. This decentralization helps to ensure that the randomness is not compromised by any single location or environmental factor.

Further Information

Cloudflare’s Wall of Entropy is a remarkable example of how ingenuity and creativity can be applied to solve complex problems in the realm of cryptography. The system’s reliance on natural randomness from lava lamps demonstrates the potential for unconventional approaches to generate truly secure and unpredictable cryptographic keys.

Bard. (2024, January 15). Cloudflare’s Wall of Entropy: A Brief Overview | Bard, Google AI. Retrieved from https://bard.google.com/

💼 ThemesBusiness, Personal Development

🤖 ChatbotsBard, ChatGPT, Copilot, Interview Wizard GPT, Merlin, the Job Application Wizard

⚙️ Prompt engineering: Creative writing, web research

🔗 Related links: [X.com post]

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