Mutual Data Authentication
Data Authentification
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Communications between transapients are complex, and a conversation may take the form of an exchange of smart or independently sentient agents which can then communicate directly with the participants and express their own opinions. These agents may even be transapient themselves, and in conversations between archailects this is often the case. In order to share information in such conversations, it is necessary to supply a comprehensive amount of 'metadata' with the raw data, so that the recipient can make a judgement on how truthful, accurate and authentic that information may be.

Transapients have effectively total recall for all of their experiences, and can remember not only where they obtained any particular piece of information, but also their own assessments of that data and how those assessments have changed over time. By using their abilities of internal contemplation (known as autosentience or autoscience) transapients can detect any bias or prejudice about any particular piece of information, and pass on their own subjective impressions with great accuracy.

In short a transapient can produce a detailed audit trail and a sophisticated critique for any shared piece of data, no matter how trivial, and can share this extra information through an authentification certificate, often encrypted to protect the security of sender and recipient alike. Each authentication certificate includes a precis of the sender's thought processes concerning the subject, sharing much more than the raw data or even its provenance.

The recipient of the data can also analyse and assess the information, and feed back their own thoughts, making the interaction both mutual and comprehensive. this feedback is of course voluntary, hence an alternative name for this process (Voluntary Data Authentication). Any and all such assessments can be permanently attached to any piece of data, allowing other recipients to assess its value accurately.

Problems with Authentication

The Achilles Heel of such systems is that keys and codes and pads only work if one can trust the sender in the first place. Between entities of the same toposophic level, such sharing can be checked for accuracy and an untrustworthy source can be identified. However if the two entities differ in toposophic that is no longer possible. It is even possible for entities of the same toposophic level to mislead one another, as humans have discovered on many occasions; this deception can often be uncovered with transapient assistance, such as the Dissimulation Detection software that some transapients distribute for reasons of their own.

However even transapient authentication software can be defeated by sufficiently advanced deception technology; such technology can be created by entities of the same toposophic level or higher. Light-speed delays in communication further compound these issues. Thus even with Mutual Data Authentication any sane being of any toposophic must live with a certain level of distrust regarding any communication.

Difficulties with implementing Mutual Data Authentication are thought by some to be an explanation for the Fermi Paradox. Perhaps some extinct non-Terragen civilizations eventually collapsed under the weight of their own Authentication protocols, for instance. Another, more disturbing, possibility is that there are some sufficiently sophisticated communications that once received and understood are fatal to the recipient either immediately or over longer time spans and that can be passed on though Mutual Data Authentication regardless of the most sophisticated protective systems Terragens have yet devised.

Phenomena such as the Amalgamation are often cited as a sign of weakness in existing Mutual Data Authentication protocols. Likewise, some transapients have advised extreme caution in dealing with non-Terragen information, particularly that which might have been produced by transapient to archailect level beings, such as some of the oldest Muuh records, or the more intelligible emissions from the other HEECs.

Given the paucity of signs of Terragen-level civilization from elsewhere in the universe, communications that are or might be extragalactic are regarded with extreme suspicion by some. The Triangulum Transmission is perhaps the best known of these suspect messages. The least communicative transapients and archailects, particularly the Solipsists, may be acting on these suspicions. Or, on the other hand, they may be early victims of such a message and they may already be a part of the Great Silence cited by some students of the Fermi Paradox. One expert on the hazards involved has phrased it like this:

"Even with all the equipment available in the Civilized Galaxy and beyond the amount of the Universe which can be examined in detail is tiny. Imagine our own Galaxy as a deep sea fish, with very sharp but tiny eyes, peering at the other galaxies with trepidation."
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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers and John B
edits by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 25 September 2003.

Additional Information
Fiction relating to transapient interactions

A Transapient's Lie