Tuesday, March 13, 2012

John Nash Predicts Modern Computer Science

The Federal Government recently declassified an interesting letter sent to the NSA by none other than the legendary John Nash. In it, Nash predicts the future of cryptosystems and computational complexity with astonishing accuracy. He describes the framework of analyzing tasks in terms of the length of the input, and remarks that problems that scale exponentially with the input should be considered "hard", one of the foundations of modern complexity theory. In addition, he remarks on exploiting this hardness in cryptosystems, and argues that the security of a good system depends on breaking it being exponentially hard. He also included a novel encryption/decryption scheme of his own design. This letter anticipates complexity theory and cryptography by decades each, and is a testament to Nash's genius.

John Nash has been an extremely influential figure in the subject material of this course. He is probably most well-known for his formulation of Nash Equilibrium, a concept essential to modern game theory and conflict resolution. Cryptography is also essential to the internet and modern networks, since hiding and encrypting data is fundamental to internet security, preventing identity theft and other crimes of exploitation. The man was a genius far ahead of his time. Now who will step up and be the next to predict the future of computer science?

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