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Limitations in our technology and communications systems frustrate users, and idealistic technologists imagine many axes along which these systems could be improved. Will we ever design the perfect software tools?

An ongoing area of research in computer science (and economics and philosophy) is the discovery of inherent trade-offs in certain systems. In some cases, it can be proven that no system can have all the properties we might want. For example, Kenneth Arrow proved that no voting method is always fair (in a certain sense of fairness), while Gustaf Arrhenius showed that no ethical theory of a certain kind consistently resolves all questions about what's for the best. Computer scientists have found similar results, like the CAP theorem about three desirable properties of a distributed database. No system can promise all three of them!

There are hints that communications systems may have similar unavoidable trade-offs among speed, reliability, and privacy (among other things). Perfecting one property may always come at some cost to another; we may never reach technologies that are ideal in particular ways. The progress of such research suggests the importance of getting used to engineering trade-offs in system design -- and making them more explicit.

Date:
2018 April 28 - 09:30
Duration:
45 min
Room:
G-103
Conference:
LinuxFest Northwest 2018
Language:
Track:
Humans
Difficulty:
Medium

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