A tale for our times

If you needed reminding that I have become a grumpy old man, here it is.

On Friday we had a nice talk from Chris Dowden, currently a postdoc at Royal Holloway. He talked about “Agreement protocols in the presence of a mobile adversary”, and you can read the abstract here.

Briefly, a number of networked nodes have to agree on a value (in Chris’s example, the time to meet for lunch). But some nodes have been taken over by an adversary, who can make the nodes pass on incorrect information, possibly different information to different people, and can store incorrect information in the node’s memory. The value is suggested by one particular node, and the aim of the protocol is to ensure that all the nodes not controlled by the adversary agree on a value, and that if the node suggesting the original value is not controlled by the adversary, then the agreed value is the one suggested by that node.

A well-defined mathematical problem. What made me uneasy was the idea that the aim is to agree on a value, even if we have no way of knowing whether or not it is the correct value.

Does this remind you of anything?

About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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2 Responses to A tale for our times

  1. Jon Awbrey says:

    In the philosophy of science that is called coherentism, and what we have here is Descartes’ “evil genius” who aims to defeat our aim to know reality.

  2. jimblack1944 says:

    Anything to do with pi, and the Bible?

    Or, more likely something to do with the RAE assessments. JMc.

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