Supplemental worldbuilding questions

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Re: Supplemental worldbuilding questions

Postby Kappa » Mon Jun 08, 2015 6:18 pm

In Effulgence, pens are novel in being capable of approaching a sufficient level of crypto while still being carry-around-able.
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Re: Supplemental worldbuilding questions

Postby cbhacking » Tue Jun 09, 2015 8:57 pm

There was also the thing about a bunch of ImpSec people making anonymous posts online about how to disable various security-risky features of pens. The impression I got was that while pens are useful and appreciated in managing one's personal life, they either can't be used for anything ImpSec, or they can't be used in any capacity that could reach outside ImpSec (i.e. no "Internet" connectivity) if used for ImpSec stuff. I probably have the details of at least one of those scenarios wrong, though.

Speaking as an InfoSec professional, I've always thought that explanation was an ass-pull bordering on a retcon-with-real-life, but I'll readily admit that I have no really idea what computers or cryptography will look like in a thousand years. It's just that the entire field of information technology would need to be drastically different for physical size to be the practical limitation on either processing power or cryptographic capability of a personal/home machine... But hey, it's canon, and it really doesn't matter that much except for how it provides the opportunity for the local Bell to be awesome.

EDIT because there's really no need to make a new post for this:
The average 2015 CPU has a few billion transistors in something that is probably smaller than a postage stamp. It can do AES cryptographic operations in a few clock cycles per core, and runs at a couple billion clock cycles per second on each core. On chips that have a section of silicon devoted to crypto, it's so small you'd barely notice. These dedicated crypto units require, at worst, single-digit microJoules of energy per cipher block.

Call it a billion (2^9) AES blocks per second, for a good CPU utilizing hardware support. Using some rough numbers (volume of a core i7: somewhere around 250mm^3) If the entire planet (10^30 mm^3 is the volume of Earth) was converted into such CPUs (~4e27 CPUs or about 2^92) and magically powered them all (47W per CPU, 2e29 W total or more than 500x the total energy output of Sol), provided them the memory they need, etc., they could do ~2^101 AES operations/second. That would take over four years (2^27 seconds) to fully brute-force AES-128 (the weakest bit strength used for that very common cipher) for one block - something that just one of those CPUs can encrypt in a nanosecond.

Clearly, the problem is not the ratio of hardware needed for encryption or with-key decryption (a tiny spec of silicon) to brute-force decryption (planet-sized computers and thousands of Sol-years of energy). Now, computers will get faster and more power-efficient, and will quite possibly keep doing so at an exponential rate. If they do, brute-forcing AES-128 in a reasonable time-frame should be possible for a sufficiently powerful (say, the NSA) agency in a couple hundred years. AES-256 would fall a few centuries after that. Of course, by that point AES will probably long since have been broken (no guarantee of that - for example, DES was never really broken so much as its key length simply isn't good enough anymore - but I wouldn't bet against it) but we'll also have had an order of magnitude more time than modern crypto has existed today in which to replace it with better ciphers that use longer keys. If that kind of progress does occur, we'll be long past using silicon semiconductors, and I'm not really equipped to speculate on how a (for example) photonic computer's processing power and energy usage would scale with size, but... I'm just not seeing desk-sized machines being needed. It's the equivalent of saying "yes, today you can puncture any practical body armor using a human-portable .50 sniper rifle, but in a thousand years personal armor will be so advanced you'll need to build a Dyson sphere filled with 3000 CE tech, and entirely devoted to the purpose, if you want to penetrate it."
Last edited by cbhacking on Wed Jun 10, 2015 8:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Supplemental worldbuilding questions

Postby DanielH » Tue Jun 09, 2015 9:35 pm

Yes, I agree that it’s fairly unrealistic. If a smartphone-sized thing isn’t good enough at crypto, a desktop-sized thing probably couldn’t be better enough to matter. Too bad the real-life explanation of “the series started in 1986” doesn’t translate well to a Watsonian explanation.
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Re: Supplemental worldbuilding questions

Postby Kappa » Wed Jun 10, 2015 6:12 am

I mean, "requires stupid amounts of dedicated circuitry" doesn't seem *that* implausible considering it's a thousand years in the future.
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Re: Supplemental worldbuilding questions

Postby DanielH » Sat Jun 13, 2015 7:00 pm

That makes sense. I don’t think it’s plausible for Linyabel to have unprecedentedly compressed a desktop’s worth of dedicated circuitry into a pen, especially without provoking a bigger reaction from ImpSec and other crypto-people. I had forgotten that it wasn’t quite unprecedented, because wristcoms are a thing. I can believe that it doesn’t literally require that much dedicated circuitry, but that more compressed versions of the circuitry were more expensive and usually single-purpose until she invented pens.
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Re: Supplemental worldbuilding questions

Postby Kappa » Sat Jun 13, 2015 7:26 pm

Also consider that the idea of "portable devices are insecure" would probably have had a long time to gain traction before anybody started making secure portable devices. So there could've been a stable situation where the existing solutions were all niche and expensive, and people weren't looking into it very hard because they didn't want to be the ones to try to convince the market about it, so the existing solutions stayed niche and expensive, and the market stayed difficult to convince. And then Linyabel came along all, "here is a ludicrously convenient, relatively easily manufactured computing device with acceptable-if-not-impregnable levels of security!" And the market was all, "HOLY SHIT WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE."
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Re: Supplemental worldbuilding questions

Postby DanielH » Sat Jun 13, 2015 7:34 pm

Yeah, that makes a lot more sense. Before I remembered wristcoms, I suspected that by the time miniaturization was possible again the miniaturization craze would have lost all momentum.
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Re: Supplemental worldbuilding questions

Postby Kappa » Sat Jun 13, 2015 7:39 pm

I'm imagining that there was a significant period of "portable devices are insecure, but people live with it for inconsequential communications" before someone invented the ciphered comlink, and then a further period of "portable devices are insecure unless you can pay for a bare-bones dedicated communicator that isn't".
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Re: Supplemental worldbuilding questions

Postby DanielH » Sun Jun 14, 2015 8:41 pm

I have finished reading the main three HDM novels, but not any of the rest of the stuff Pullman wrote in that setting. I find myself completely agreeing that a bear’s armor cannot be their demon in canon, whatever Iorek Byrnison, Lyra, or even Philip Pullman might believe. I also find myself not believing what he said about bears not going to the land of the dead. I don’t remember if that is true in Effulgence or not. If it is, has Amariah noticed it yet or done anything about it?
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Re: Supplemental worldbuilding questions

Postby Alicorn » Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:44 pm

I don't remember if we mentioned it, but Amariah wouldn't have made an obvious omission like that even if she had to note it separately in her wishes rather than it being covered with the portal from the land of the dead.
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