This is one of Cem’s virtual notebooks on the web. In contrast with the others, here the blogger puts on the serious “information security professional” hat and writes about problems of information security and privacy, with occasional digressions into economics, baseball, environment and current events.

Opinions expressed here are personal, and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

Why Random Oracle?

In cryptography, the random oracle model refers to an abstraction useful for constructing theoretical proofs. Unlike the divinely inspired Delphic oracles of classic lore, this oracle has a strange way of dishing out wisdom. The first time he is asked a new question, he replies with a completely random answer pulled out of thin air. But when asked the same question in the future, he remains steadfast in returning the same answer.

The random oracle model then is a reminder of the way our own personal biases solidify into dogma. Often we form opinions and preferences based on chance, on completely arbitrary and incidental circumstances surrounding the first time we are faced with a decision. Never mind that facing the same conundrum at a different stage or having read a different sequence of books may have tipped the scales to another opinion. Once the answer is decided, all future queries on the same topic yield the same answer with a certainty and the “foolish consistency” Emerson derided.

Calling this series “Random Oracle” is intended to serve as an optimistic reminder, to continue questioning those biases instead of blindly repeating the answer our internal oracles committed to first time around.



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