Monday, June 15, 2009

What is deception?

From Bruce Schneier's "Crypto-Gram" newsletter:
David Livingstone Smith, University of New England, is a philosopher by training, and goes back to basics: "What are we talking about?" A theoretical definition -- "that which something has to have to fall under a term" -- of deception is difficult to define. "Cause to have a false belief," from the Oxford English Dictionary, is inadequate. "To deceive is intentionally have someone to have a false belief" also doesn't work. "Intentionally causing someone to have a false belief that the speaker knows to be false" still isn't good enough. The fundamental problem is that these are anthropocentric definitions. Deception is not unique to humans; it gives organisms an evolutionary edge. For example, the mirror orchid fools a wasp into landing on it by looking like and giving off chemicals that mimic the female wasp. This example shows that we need a broader definition of "purpose."
His formal definition: "For systems A and B, A deceives B iff A possesses some character C with proper function F, and B possesses a mechanism C* with the proper function F* of producing representations, such that the proper function of C is to cause C* to fail to perform F* by causing C* to form false representations, and C does so in virtue of performing F, and B's falsely representing enables some feature of A to perform its proper function."
NB:  "iff" in the definition above is not a misspelling.  "Iff" is logician shorthand for "if and only if".

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