Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Learning/thinking by analogies

For people with a computer science background (but not limited to), working with/thinking in analogies is part of life. For example, take design patterns Adapter, Bridge, Observer, Factory, etc.; they are all analogies. Analogies help us understand/solve the problem at hand.

I found the following analogy appeared in an article in ACM Communications March 2010 issue interesting:

Alice owns a jewelry store. She has raw precious materials—gold, diamonds, silver, etc.—that she wants her workers to assemble into intricately designed rings and necklaces. But she distrusts her workers and assumes that they will steal her jewels if given the opportunity. In other words, she wants her workers to process the materials into finished pieces, without giving them access to the materials. What does she do?

Here is her plan. She uses a transparent impenetrable glovebox, secured by a lock for which only she has the key. She puts the raw precious materials inside the box, locks it, and gives it to a worker. Using the gloves, the worker assembles the ring or necklace inside the box. Since the box is impenetrable, the worker cannot get to the precious materials, and figures he might as well return the box to Alice, with the finished piece inside. Alice unlocks the box with her key and extracts the ring or necklace. In short, the worker processes the raw materials into a finished piece, without having true access to the materials.

Cryptographically speaking ;), this is what we try to achieve with computation over encrypted data! (Note: this analogy does NOT fully represent this goal as the authors themselves point out)


Peter said...

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