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Game of Coding: Beyond Trusted Majorities

Hanzaleh Akbari NodehiViveck R. CadambeMohammad Ali Maddah-Ali
Jan 2024
Coding theory revolves around the incorporation of redundancy into transmitted symbols, computation tasks, and stored data to guard against adversarial manipulation. However, error correction in coding theory is contingent upon a strict trust assumption. In the context of computation and storage, it is required that honest nodes outnumber adversarial ones by a certain margin. However, in several emerging real-world cases, particularly, in decentralized blockchain-oriented applications, such assumptions are often unrealistic. Consequently, despite the important role of coding in addressing significant challenges within decentralized systems, its applications become constrained. Still, in decentralized platforms, a distinctive characteristic emerges, offering new avenues for secure coding beyond the constraints of conventional methods. In these scenarios, the adversary benefits when the legitimate decoder recovers the data, and preferably with a high estimation error. This incentive motivates them to act rationally, trying to maximize their gains. In this paper, we propose a game theoretic formulation, called game of coding, that captures this unique dynamic where each of the adversary and the data collector (decoder) have a utility function to optimize. The utility functions reflect the fact that both the data collector and the adversary are interested to increase the chance of data being recoverable at the data collector. Moreover, the utility functions express the interest of the data collector to estimate the input with lower estimation error, but the opposite interest of the adversary. As a first, still highly non-trivial step, we characterize the equilibrium of the game for the repetition code with repetition factor of 2, for a wide class of utility functions with minimal assumptions.
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