May 9th, 2011

pedant, law and order

private key punchlines

Has anybody written about humor as a sign of a successful encryption strategy?

I think that a good joke might be a lot like a sweet encryption, and I’d like to explore this notion:

The sweet spot of jokes is actually the same as the sweet spot of sweet cryptography schemes.

Consider two failed joke forms:

  1. The non sequitur: “A priest, two rabbis, and a Zen monk walk into a bar. Punchline: None of them eat rutabagas.”
  2. The supra sequitur: “What’s a lot like a horse and has black and white stripes?Punchline: A zebra.”

Aside: I actually think these are both quite funny, but they are funny as metajokes: they violate the constraints of joke-dom rather neatly. They force the listener to circumambulate the Gricean Maximal Limits before returning to confront the teller with a withering, sidelong glare: the listener has finally settled on the Grice Hypothesis of Last Resort (“Uncooperative Communicant”).

These two jokes fail to match these premises:

If the punchline is predictable, it’s a bad joke. The punchline must be difficult to predict.

If the punchline doesn’t “make” the joke quickly, it’s also a bad joke. Fitting the punchline to the setup must be obvious in retrospect.

Let’s spell out the analogy:

message:joke :: encrypted form:setup :: decryption key:punchline

By this analogy, we can say the same things about encryption strategies:

If the decryption key is predictable, it’s a bad encryption. The decryption key must be difficult to predict.

If the decryption key doesn’t “make” the message interpretable quickly, it’s also a bad encryption. Fitting the decryption key to the encrypted message must be obvious in retrospect.

Humor seems to live in the “second law one-way” sweet spot that good cryptographic approaches use: it’s easy to confirm correctness of a given solution, but difficult to predict a correct answer.

Does anybody know citations pointing to people publishing in this direction?  Either thinking about humor as cryptographic success, or thinking about crypto as “setup + punchline”?

Mirrored from Trochaisms.