Re: poly: How to buy shared secrets cheap

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Fri Feb 27 1998 - 13:03:39 PST

Perry Metzger, <>, writes re Robin's secret breaker:
> The problem is, it doesn't seem to actually work.

It's not clear that it has been tried in exactly this form.

A problem is to make the offer of the large sums be credible. This is
the crucial first step in the disasterous logic chain for the victim: that
eventually, the reward will be so large that he or his co conspirator is
guaranteed to squeal. This means that the secret is eventually going to
come out, and now it is only a matter of time and of who gets the reward.
But if he doesn't believe that the guarantee of eventually having such a
large offer is being made in good faith, he won't give in and the whole
thing breaks down.

It's kind of paradoxical, because the group making the offer in fact
believes and hopes that things will never get that far, that it will
only have to give out a paltry sum. But to get away with it, they have
to put on a convincing show of being willing to pay out the large amount.

This is not too different from other forms of threatening and deterrent
behavior. You hope and expect not to have to go through with it if the
other person is rational, but you have to be willing to do so in order
for him to rationally acquiesce.

There may also be a problem in Robin's scheme with time discounts.
A dollar today may be worth enough less than two dollars tomorrow that
the secret holder is willing to wait until then, even taking the risk
that the other person will get it before them.

If, as in the case I gave, we were offering up to $1 million, and suppose
we did it over the course of a year, then a linear increase would be
about $3000 a day. That gets to be a pretty expensive payoff if the
criminals manage to hold off for a few days.

These effects would make the bribe-Clinton scenario more difficult to
carry out, but I had an idea about that. Instead of offering money,
we could offer bimbos. One bimbo the first day, two the next, and so
on. Since Clinton has already proven that he is willing to take some
small but substantial risk in his political career in order to bed just
a few bimbos (or whatever he does with them), then we should not have to
offer him too many to get him to reveal his secrets.

Received on Fri Feb 27 21:24:20 1998

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