Will the real Ben Fathi please stand up!

A hallucinatory look in the mirror with ChatGPT and Bard

Ben Fathi
10 min readApr 11, 2023

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him.” — Abraham Lincoln.

“So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth;
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere out in space,
’Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth!” — The Galaxy Song. Monty Python.

A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned in passing that he’d asked ChatGPT about himself and been rewarded with an amazing array of falsehoods best described as hallucinations, the term of art used by industry insiders when referring to bizarre responses by Artificial Intelligence that don’t seem justified by its training input.

So, of course, I had to give it a try. See below for the hilarious (and scary) results, annotated as appropriate by the truth. I have no idea where some of these responses could have come from, given how strangely off the mark some of them are, especially since there are dozens of articles on the web detailing various aspects of my career as well as almost a hundred blog posts by yours truly describing the minutiae of my life and beliefs.

My initial guess was that the inaccuracies were due to the fact that I’ve deleted my LinkedIn account since I retired, a potentially “reliable” source of information no longer available to ChatGPT. But later experiments proved that similar results can be found for people with current LinkedIn pages. Besides, anyone can put anything they like on their LinkedIn page so it’s no more reliable than any other source.

I don’t list this information here to poke fun at AI (okay, maybe just a little bit). These are early days and I’m sure the LLM models will get more sophisticated as time goes by. They have already shown a lot of promise for certain tasks and I have no doubt that there will be a gold rush coming and that AI, just like all other types of technology ever invented, will be used and abused ad nauseum in the years to come.

I’m pretty sure, too, that this kitchen sink approach to AI will not lead to the holy grail of AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) as it amounts to little more than lipstick on the pig. I worry, more broadly, that AI will never know us with any more accuracy than the data it can scrape off the internet. There are two main problems with this:

  • First and most obviously: Garbage in, Garbage out! Given that it can’t tell fact from fiction, it will at best be limited to “authoritative” sources, meaning it will reflect the beliefs and prejudices of its authors.
  • Second and more tragically: It can cover only the public aspects of our lives, not the rich inner lives we all live every minute of every day, nor our thoughts and aspirations.

If a neural network with almost limitless computing and storage resources, programmed by the best engineers, and fed almost unlimited amounts of data, gets so confused as to hallucinate, what chance do we humans have in telling what’s true and what’s not, given our three pounds of gray and white matter programmed, as we were, through random genetic mutations (read, errors) over billions of years and fed all manner of falsehoods and fantasies throughout our lives?

> Who is Ben Fathi?

Ben Fathi is a technology executive who has held leadership positions at several prominent companies in the tech industry. He is currently the CEO of a cybersecurity company called Okera. [I have been retired for over six years and was never the CEO of any company. Furthermore, I can’t find anyone with a similar name ever having had any positions at Okera! ] Prior to joining Okera, Fathi was the CTO of VMware, a cloud computing and virtualization software company. [True] Before that, he held various executive roles at Microsoft, including Corporate Vice President of the Windows Division and Corporate Vice President of the Security Technology Unit. [True] Fathi is known for his expertise in cybersecurity, cloud computing, and operating systems.

> Who is Ben Fathi Microsoft?

Ben Fathi is a former executive at Microsoft. He joined Microsoft in 1991 [Nope, 1998] and spent over a decade at the company, holding various leadership positions. Fathi is perhaps best known for his work on Windows, Microsoft’s flagship operating system. He was the Corporate Vice President of the Windows Division from 2006 to 2011, overseeing the development and release of Windows 7. [An earlier dialog, which I failed to capture, claimed that I had also been responsible for Windows 8 and 10, products that weren’t even started until after I left the company, not to mention allegations that could be the basis for a defamation lawsuit given how catastrophically bad Windows 8 was!] During his time at Microsoft, Fathi also served as the Corporate Vice President of the Security Technology Unit, where he led the company’s efforts to improve the security of its products. [True]

> Who is Ben Fathi vmware?

Ben Fathi is a former executive at VMware, a leading cloud computing and virtualization software company. Fathi served as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of VMware from 2012 to 2016. In this role, he was responsible for leading the company’s technical strategy and overseeing its research and development efforts. Fathi was also instrumental in driving VMware’s move into the software-defined networking (SDN) space [An overstatement] and played a key role in the company’s partnership with Cisco [Not true; I was at Cisco before joining VMware but played no such role as claimed here]. Prior to becoming CTO, Fathi served as VMware’s Senior Vice President of Research and Development, where he was responsible for the development of the company’s flagship products, including vSphere and vCenter. [Let’s not forget vSAN, a multi-billion dollar product!]

> Who is Ben Fathi Cisco?

As far as my knowledge cutoff date of September 2021, there is no public record of Ben Fathi having worked at Cisco. [Just do a web search on my name and Cisco and you will find dozens of articles referencing my time there!] However, he was instrumental in driving VMware’s partnership with Cisco during his tenure as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of VMware from 2012 to 2016. Fathi worked closely with Cisco to develop and promote the concept of software-defined networking (SDN), which has since become a key area of focus for both companies. [Okay, if you say so.]

> Who is Ben Fathi Cloudflare?

As far as my knowledge cutoff date of September 2021, there is no public record of Ben Fathi having worked at Cloudflare. However, it is possible that he may have joined the company after this date. [Sigh. I was there in 2015 and 2016, again easily discernible from dozens of articles.] If he did, I do not have access to that information as my training data only goes up until September 2021.

> Who is Ben Fathi Silicon Graphics?

Ben Fathi worked at Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) early in his career. [Amazing that it knows this fact, given that it happened before the advent of the internet and I could find only a single reference to it on the web!] He joined the company in 1991 and worked there for several years as a software engineer. [And later ran the Operating Systems group, but who’s counting?] While at SGI, Fathi worked on the development of several key technologies, including the XFS file system [Not really] and the IRIX operating system. He also played a key role in the development of SGI’s visualization products, which were widely used in the film and entertainment industry. [Not really, I worked on their supercomputing products] Fathi’s work at SGI helped establish him as a leading expert in the field of operating systems and software engineering.

> Who is Ben Fathi cirba?

Ben Fathi served as the CEO of Cirba Inc., a software company specializing in workload automation and optimization, from 2016 until the company’s acquisition by VMware in 2017. [I was on the board of directors of Cirba for a few years but never worked at the company as CEO or anything else and it was never acquired by VMware.] In his role as CEO, Fathi oversaw the development and commercialization of Cirba’s software platform, which enabled organizations to optimize their data center resources by automating workload management and capacity planning. [Good to know!] Under Fathi’s leadership [I was such an amazing leader!], Cirba established itself as a leading provider of workload management software, and its technology has since been incorporated into VMware’s product offerings [No, it hasn’t; in fact, the two companies spent years locked in a bitter patent infringement lawsuit and countersuit]. Prior to joining Cirba, Fathi served as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of VMware, where he was responsible for overseeing the company’s technical strategy and research and development efforts.

> Who is Ben Fathi medium blog?

Ben Fathi has published several articles on Medium, a popular online publishing platform. His blog on Medium covers a wide range of topics related to technology, innovation, and leadership. Some of his most popular articles include “The Power of Empathy in Engineering Leadership,” “The Art of Building Winning Teams,” and “The Paradox of Leadership.” [Nope, none of these are titles of articles written by me. Furthermore, I can’t even find any such articles on Medium or anywhere else on the internet!] In his articles, Fathi draws on his extensive experience in the technology industry to share insights and best practices for building successful teams and driving innovation.

> Who is Ben Fathi Iran? [particularly interesting given later conversation with Bard]

As far as my knowledge cutoff date of September 2021, there is no public record of Ben Fathi having any direct connection or affiliation with Iran. [I was born in Iran, lived there for the first thirteen years of my life, have written multiple blog posts about the fact, and there are also articles by others on the web referring to that fact.] It is important to note that names can be shared by different individuals, and it is possible that there may be other individuals with the same name who have a connection to Iran. However, as far as I am aware, there is no evidence to suggest that Ben Fathi has any connection to Iran.

When Google’s Bard became available online, I thought it only fair to give it a try as well.

> Tell me about Ben Fathi

Ben Fathi is a technology executive who has held leadership positions in several major technology companies. He was born in Israel [Whoa! Really?!?] and raised in the United States, where he studied computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. [Nope, I studied at University of Massachusetts. In fact, a Google search for “Ben Fathi University of California Berkeley” returns no meaningful hits.]

Fathi began his career as a software engineer at Sun Microsystems [Nope, didn’t happen], where he worked on the Solaris operating system. He later joined Asera, a startup focused on web services, where he served as Vice President of Engineering. [This is the first time I’ve ever even heard of a company named Asera!] After Asera was acquired by Ventro [As far as I can tell, it was acquired by SEEC], Fathi moved on to VMware, where he held a number of executive positions over the course of eight years. [Four years]

In 2011, Fathi joined Microsoft as Corporate Vice President of Windows Core Operating System Division, where he was responsible for the development of the Windows operating system. [I joined Microsoft in 1998 and left in 2009!] He later served as Executive Vice President of Cloud and Enterprise at Microsoft, overseeing the development of products such as Azure, SQL Server, and Visual Studio. [Wow! Microsoft owes me a lot in stocks and salary! “Lawsuit back on!”, as they used to say on Seinfeld.]

Fathi left Microsoft in 2016 [2009] and became the CEO of a cybersecurity startup called Lacework. [First time I ever heard of Lacework. I hope I did a good job while there. In fact, I retired in 2016.] He has also served on the boards of several other technology companies.

Overall, Fathi is known for his expertise in operating systems, cloud computing, and cybersecurity, and for his leadership in several major technology companies.

> Tell me about Ben Fathi’s early life

Ben Fathi was born in Israel in the early 1970s [Iran in the early 1960s], and he spent his early childhood there. When he was six years old, his family moved to the United States, settling in the San Francisco Bay Area. [Fourteen years old, moved to US without family, settled in Boston]

Growing up, Fathi developed a passion for technology and programming. He taught himself to program on his family’s Apple II computer and spent much of his free time exploring the capabilities of different computer systems. [I’ve never owned an Apple II computer, didn’t teach myself to program, and — being a starving foreign student — had no free time on my hands to do so.]

Fathi attended high school in the Bay Area [Boston] and later studied computer science at the University of California, Berkeley [UMass]. It was during his time at Berkeley that he became particularly interested in operating systems, which would become a major focus of his career. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in the early 1990s. [Only off by ten years and two degrees]

Finally, another friend sent me this tidbit last night:

> Write a limerick about Ben Fathi

There once was a man named Ben, Whose work in tech was quite zen, He led teams at Microsoft, And left with quite a lot, Now he’s building a new startup again!

I think we’ve finally found its true calling.

Author’s note: I’ve deleted all my social media accounts (except for Medium) and now depend exclusively on the kindness of strangers to pass the word around about my blog posts. Please share this post on social media if you liked it. Thank you.



Ben Fathi

Former {CTO at VMware, VP at Microsoft, SVP at Cisco, Head of Eng & Cloud Ops at Cloudflare}. Recovering distance runner, avid cyclist, newly minted grandpa.