Consider the following fantastic scenario: an extraterrestrial named “Alice” contacts an earthling named “Bob” via radio waves. Suppose further that Bob has set up a transmitter, so that he can respond to Alice’s message. In a strict sense, Alice and Bob now have the capability to exchange information—but can they ever hope to have a meaningful conversation? The philosophical substance of this question is self-evident – and we examine what philosophers have had to say about it in Section 1.4.1 – but what is less obvious is that there are equally compelling technical motivations for studying the semantics of communication, especially communication without common background, which we outline in Section 1.1. We will subsequently describe the history and prior work on this topic, give an overview of our work (including a concrete example of an application to communicating solutions to computational problems in Section 1.4.2), and contrast the contributions of this book with similar work in other fields.


Semantic Interoperability Interactive Proof Common Background Program Checker Computational Learning Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Engineering and Applied SciencesHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL)Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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