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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Asynchronous Cryptology

The real purpose of what we will come to define as asynchronous cryptology is not of course to communicate with another in a way that third parties cannot understand, which is the conventional purpose imagined of the cryptological sciences; but to pretend to do so, so that you drive your opponents mad. And once they have gone mad, you have won. Asynchronous cryptology is an oxymoron. It cannot possibly occur.


Firstly let us define our terms. Cryptology is the science of encoding communications (normally expressed in natural language) between individuals in such a way that third parties intercepting those communications (a) cannot ascertain their real content; or, even better, (b) cannot assess who they are communications from and to and vice versa; or, better still, (c), cannot assess that they are encrypted communications at all.

The way cryptology used to be done can be summarised in the Sherlock Holmes Novella The Adventure of the Dancing Men (a superlative telemovie version of which can be found here, subject to jurisdictional copyright issues). In that story, Holmes’s client keeps finding apparently childish drawings of dancing men on the walls and furniture of his country mansion. What Holmes concludes, after substantial analysis of these apparently childish drawings, is that they are a cipher. And here it is:

We should add the detail missing from the schema above that the end of a word was in each case demarcated with the relevant dancing man holding a flag. So the form of the schema was thEquicKbrowNfoXjumpSoveRthElazYdoG. For example, the infamous message Holmes deciphers that causes him to rush rush to his client's aid, only to find him dead, is the following:

It reads, "elsie prepare to meet thy god".

The dancing men are of course successful on all three cryptological criteria. The casual observer cannot assess what the message says. Nor can (s)he assess that is even an encrypted communication (they look like a "childish prank", in Holmes's words). Only Holmes, with his uniquely inquisitive and analytical mind, can assess not only that they represent an encrypted communication, but also what their true meaning is, and ultimately - and tragically - between whom the communications are passing. Thus is his client shot dead by a criminal whose ex-fiancee is now Holmes's client's wife.

"The dancing men" hence turns out to be an excellent cipher - only an analytical genius could decrypt it - although few would recognise it as such these days. That is because it is synchronous; and we introduce our essay on what we call "asynchronous cryptology" in order to define that admittedly peculiar term by reference to its antonym, synchronous cryptology, of which "the Dancing Men" is a a paradigm example. Our use of the term "asynchronous" is somewhat idiosyncratic; what we mean is that the cipher remains in place over time and its elements do not change. Hence it is a logical cipher, by which we mean that a person capable of logical analysis will ultimately be able to work out what the cipher means and decrypt it, presuming that they can perceive it to be a cipher. And within the meaning of "a person" we therefore mean a modern computer. That is why some contemporary cryptologists may ridicule "the dancing men" as uninteresting: because it is so simple a cipher, with a series of twenty-six images representing the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, and so on and so forth, that with just a few example a computational code-cracking algorithm would have solved it. However, any contemporary cryptologist who was inclined to ridicule "the dancing men" would be misconceived, and we shall see why this is so in the course of this essay.

Originally the vast majority of ciphers were synchronous. They were based upon static private dictionaries, and to crack them you just needed to realise they were ciphers (this became easy when you saw sufficient examples of them); and then either obtain a copy of the private dictionary (e.g. by buying one from an insider - in modern intelligence what is known as inciting treachery) or by obtaining sufficient examples of the cipher to be able to crack it through analysis. The challenge facing contemporary cryptology that modern computers have become so powerful that all synchronous ciphers can be cracked by contemporary computational techniques. Even so-called "pretty good privacy", or 256-bit encryption, a form of encryption that involves scrambling the character's of one's message together with large hexadecimal numbers, and results in a level of encryption that it would take the entirety of contemporary contemporary computing power many millions of years to break the cipher and so on and so forth, turns out not to be effective because even though computational powers cannot decrypt the PGP encryption the electronic devices of the communicating parties can and do decrypt the PGP encryption at each end. Otherwise there would be no point in communicating using the encrypted method, were the communicating parties not in possession of the means to decrypt the messages being communicated. And the frailty in the encryption system therefore lies in the frailty of the encrypting and decrypting devices at each end of the chain. It turns out that it is virtually inevitable that one can exploit holes in the software used to encrypt and decrypt.

This is a consequence of the piecewise way in which modern computer software is written. It tends to compose a series of enormously complex components each of which has been written by one developer or team of developers in ways opaque and obscure to other software developers / computer programmers. Then these various developers bolt the code of other developers together into an amorphous mass to achieve some yet more complicated functionality, particularly as IT hardware increases exponentially in capacity and speed, and ever more is possible. Hence ultimately software developers at the top of any particular programming stack have no understanding of how the increasingly and exponentially myriad selection of software subroutine components they are using as building blocks of their final product each work individually, nor do they understand how they interact. This inevitably leads to lacunae in the programming structure as a whole, which third party programmers ("hackers", as we call them) can exploit to capture the decrypted communication as it passes through one of the communicants' electronic devices. Even worse, that communication can be interfered with, as the hacker replaces the true communication with a false one, pretends to be someone else so that a communicant may be oblivious to the fact that he is now communicating with a third party hacker intervenor, and so on and so forth.

Once one party has learned how to do this, it ultimately turns out that we can all do it, because someone sells or gives away (on the internet or "dark net") the coding technology to engage in the hacking and then eventually the hacking technique is in the public domain. Then someone writes a patch to prevent this sort of hacking; then someone hacks the patch or finds another coding flaw to exploit and hack; then someone patches that; then someone else writes a different encrypted messaging system that someone else hacks; and so on and so forth and the entire exercise goes round in circumstances like a ceaseless nuclear arms race.

The net result is that contemporary synchronous cryptology, despite PGP, transpires to be a failure because structural frailties in the hardware and software at the ends of each of the lines of encrypted communication can be hacked and hence interfered with by the malign. While hardware and software developers chase their tails and those of hackers by trying to find some simpler way of writing code and creating communicating devices (and this will be the subject of a future essay), another strand of thinking is underway in cryptology and that is not to rely upon private dictionaries at all, even insanely complicated ones such as PGP, but to turn to methods of encryption that are innately unpredictable. And that is what we mean by asynchronous cryptology. So we might try to encode messages in a series of otherwise innocuous daily events, a number of which are discussed below. Here are a few examples:

  • Encrypting a message in a work of art, in particular for example in a work of art that is generated by an AI algorithm. (These are all the rage these days.)

  • Encrypting a message in an unusual Youtube video for a chosen song, that appears when a search for that song appears.

  • Encrypting a message in the choice of Youtube music videos or move options that arise sequentially while the Youtube user has music or videos playing in the background and is not taking an active part in the choice of media.

  • The use of pauses in such media to emphasise points. (It is straightforward to penetrate a person's electronic device to insert such pauses at will, due to the aforementioned software development holes / bugs.)

  • Text in an email or document being shadowed other than in the course of the computer user's manoeuvring of the cursor.

  • Unusual mobile telephone malfunctions, such as switching between screens or unusual error messages or the appearance of obviously inappropriate icons on the screen face (for example the appearance of the "aeroplane mode" icon when the internet appears to be fully functional).

  • Unusual emoticons not ordinarily available in any typical emoticon alphabet that can be downloaded from the internet, suddenly appearing as options in the mobile telephone user's emoticon dictionary.

  • Google or other search engine searches the results of which are obviously not the top-ranked results but represent something else that the communicating party is trying to communicate to the receiving party.

  • The use of web addresses that are obviously not real internet page addresses but instead conceal some more or less encrypted message (e.g. within them.

  • Emails sent to non-existent or nonsensical email addresses (e.g. - try writing to it if you dare) with peculiar or unusual contents. Note that these can be very clever, because they in fact allow the emailing party to send an email or other message to anybody they want, with the assistance of a hidden operator, on the assumption that the operator has a universal email address or other contact book directory; the sender themselves does not therefore need to have anyone's contact details or even their name. With an obliging operator, an agent might send an email to and the operator can find a way of getting the message to the lady in question, particularly if the operator has the capacity (as is often the case) of undertaking a full sweep of every mobile or other electronic device within a certain range of the agent the operator is supervising. There is scope for infinite ingenuity in silly email addresses. Or they may just be distracting nonsense (e.g.

  • Emails drafted and saved that have no recipients at all. It is just known that various third parties, including but often not limited to the agent's operator, may be able to read that text.

  • Dialling silly numbers, e.g. + with hidden messages in them.

  • Having the text or formatting on a screen shift around or change in mysterious ways.

  • Bogus social media logins and social media messages.

  • Using aged telephones such as Blackberries with operating systems and software that are better written, and full of technical functions modern computer programmers have forgotten about, to instal encryption or decryption tools and to convey messages.

  • Arranging for lights in a room or building to flash in a certain way, for example to represent morse code (although sadly few people still know it) or to indicate certain events (for example, "walk this way" or "emergency" by the use of repeat flashing lights).

  • Creating unusual marks on television or monitor screens (this author once had a series of moving electronic insects crawling across his laptop screen; he inferred, after pinching himself to ensure he was not having a psychotic attack, that this was some sort of code telling him that the laptop in question was bugged in the sense of being under surveillance).

  • Certain regular websites being hijacked and operated in peculiar ways. (This author notoriously had a preference for dress types on women that were popular on a certain website selling clothes; various parties, learning this, hijacked that website to provide for special dress choices for the author to view, many of which had the most absurd names apparently encrypting strange messages, such as "one last fling nighttime minidress" or "back to you backless slit minidress" and other such hilarious if frankly inane details). Government websites can also be hijacked. There are very few websites sufficiently protected that they cannot be hijacked.

  • News websites and reels are an example of website hijacking particularly common with our dear friends Russian intelligence. You will go to your favourite news website or news reel and there will be a long serious of extremely mysterious news articles generally written by AI algorithms that are designed to make you question the purpose of what you are doing; become anxious; draw specious parallels with your own life or something you are embarrassed about; or otherwise to make you confused and disorientated. It is hard to emulate these but after a bit of experience you know them when you see them. The articles are ludicrously specific, about topics that cannot possibly be of interest to anyone but you. And that is because you have been the victim of electronic profiling by the Russian government, who has been busy ripping information about your electronic choices from out of your computer. Remember however that private commercial organisations are not above this kind of thing either, in posting advertisements on your computer or mobile phone screen for things that they have assessed you may want to buy by collating your personal information. Russian intelligence has just borrowed these methods and amplified them to typically Russian extremes. This Russian intelligence phenomenon was first described in impeccably comprehensive detail by Robert Mueller, Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, and despite his ominous warnings that Russian intelligence gathering into individuals using artificial intelligence methods would become ever more prevalent, nothing much has since been done to prevent it.

  • Photographs which have no obvious synchronous designs, so as to prevent them from being read by computers. These are commonly used amongst Russian intelligence and her allies, such as the darker side of Serbian intelligence, to communicate messages on social media platforms such as Instagram.

  • Highlighting on pieces of text flashing up and then disappearing again after a few presses of the keys on a computer.

  • Turning to one's email inbox and finding that the top email on the screen is a specific email, rather than the most recent in one's inbox; or that there is a "new draft" box open in the corner of the screen with some (or no) text in it, implying perhaps that the reader ought to be sending some sort of email with some sort of text in it.

  • Google Chrome has a feature called "Spotlight" which is a box that can open and accept text, and provides internet suggestions ostensibly relating to that text. Such a box may open unsolicited and invite you to type text into it, whereupon asynchronous Spotlight search results may appear and in these results may lie one or more encrypted messages.

  • Unusual log-in and password details for websites (for example typing as a password a word that has an encrypted meaning when it is not really a password for that site at all, the encrypted word being hidden by the fact that it appears on the face of the screen as a series of * symbols or something similar).

  • Hijacking (or creation of separate) chatbot / artificial intelligence essay writing systems so that an apparent request to a chatbot provides an answer that in fact reveals a hidden communication, often mixed up with other generic chatbot materials and designed to follow the generic style chatbots use. The reason this method is asynchronous is because the person making enquiry of the chatbot cannot be certain when there is a "voice" within the chatbot (and if so which voice), or when the output is pure chatbot.

  • There is a phenomenon in intelligence communities which we are going to define as "NAFF conversations". These are conversations in earshot of the intended audience, ostensibly about some irrelevant subject (they often pose as business conversations about some fictitious transaction), in which certain words or phrases are spoken above the normal pitch of the rest of the conversation so that they stand out and the intended audience is delivered some message just from listening to those words and ignoring the rest of the conversation. The problems with NAFF conversations are numerous, and it is not just that it takes significant training for participants in NAFF conversations to undertake the exercise skilfully. NAFF conversations are very obvious to an experienced field agent, who has undoubtedly heard many of them in the course of his career. Therefore they are very obvious to experienced third party agents who may wish to intercept the communication. They are also confusing, as the intended party has to take care to listen to a lot of nonsense, waiting for the important part to come. Moreover it is not clear who may have sent the NAFF conversationalists. In a modern world in which native speakers of any language can be bought, and one's friends and enemies may come in many forms, NAFF conversations suffer from what we have previously described as the identity crisis: it is very difficult for the receiving party to the communication to identify who the NAFF conversations is coming from, and hence very difficult to interpret ambiguities in it or to assess whether it is hostile or pure disinformation. Also it is very easy simply to overlook the message, particularly in some highly personnel-hostile environments (of which this author has experienced several, including Russia, Serbia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan), in which the field agent may be the recipient of several or even dozens of NAFF conversations of various types every day. What the experienced field agent actually does in such circumstances is simply to tune them all out and listen to none of them, or (s)he would go crazy listening to endless themes including miscellaneous threats of violence, places (s)he might be advised to be going, times when things might be happening, and so on and so forth. NAFF conversations are, unfortunately, quite naff in what we will call highly hostile personnel environments (HHPE), being defined as an environment in which one can expect routine multiple-daily interactions with extremely unpleasant personnel, typically agents of internal security forces, whose goal is to intimidate the field agent or to break his or her psychological health. In HHPE's, the field agent just learns to tune out all the background noise.

  • There is one additional observation to be made about NAFF conversations which is that there is a highly effective countermeasure, namely to participate uninvited. This author will give one illustrative counter-example now that he is outside what was undoubtedly an HHPE. In that HHPE, he was beset with Russian agents approaching him in any public venue they could find and engaging in NAFF conversations in his vicinity involving words describing different sorts of dangerous unlawful recreational narcotics. So they would come close to him, talk about something pointless, and then suddenly shout the word "COCAINE" and continue talking. The counter-measure recommended in such cases is to engage in the NAFF conversation oneself, talking rubbish and then adding in words such as "PRISON" or "POLICE" randomly and meaninglessly. This tends to get rid of such people, and also to cause them anxiety and confusion, thereby deterring future such communications.

  • Specific unsolicited images appearing on software like mobile telephone screensavers, that might be intended to cause inspiration, a sense of hope or confidence, anxiety, gloom, or conveyance of a state of affairs.

  • This author has experienced what he calls the "Russian Telephone" - a total reprogramming of his mobile telephone so that it no longer functions as a telephone at all and instead its screen appears to show patterns of electronic damage but in fact they keep varying to show various letters, words, images and shapes within the patterns of ostensible electronic damage. This can be amusing for a while, until you realise that you have no idea who is controlling the manipulation of the images on the face of your mobile phone (in fact it may turn out to be more than one person each with competing agendas, and there is no way of knowing who your communicant is at any one time). Ultimately the messages conveyed through varying apparent images of mobile telephone screen damage are so ambiguous as to be meaningless and the only thing to do with a phone reprogrammed in such a way is to throw it away or leave it indefinitely in a harmless place.

  • This author has also experienced unusual dictionary and thesaurus entries, so that one is guided to a thesaurus or dictionary for a specific word one is typing and it has an unusual or exceptional content or emphasis. Unfortunately there is no way of drawing inferences from such things, because there is the problem of the identity crisis (you do not know who is doing this to your electronic composition) and hence you can have no idea what the message really is and whether it is friendly or hostile.

  • Unusual email campaigns, in which a person might be repeatedly invited to peculiar talks or offered peculiar advertisements for things that (s)he obviously would never want to buy, each replete with strange details. These things have much in common with peculiar news articles, and in each case the only safe inference to draw is that they are nonsense intended to confuse (the philosopher Harry Frankfurter had a special word to describe "nonsense intended to confuse"), and they should be ignored completely - as indeed should most round-robin email, irrespective of its source. If you receive such materials it may well be because you have been profiled and targeted by either a government or private organisation; and generally speaking the purposes of profiling people is to sell them things they would not normally want or to persuade them to do things they would not normally do.

We have taken the liberty of defining these sorts of communication methods as "NAFF", essentially because they are all pretty naff. (Naff is British English slang meaning vulgar, unfashionable or strange in the extreme.) So asynchronous means of communication are NAFF means of communication.

There are so many of these asynchronous methods of communication that they are limited only by the human imagination and the capacity of contemporary computer programmers. And that is rather the point of them. Because the human imagination is infinitely broad, ex hypothesi a computer is not it is thought can emulate them. However artificial intelligence algorithms are being constantly written and rewritten to try to make sense of the nonsensical and to try to find patterns in asynchronous modes of communication, just as the hapless receivers of these various patterns of communication struggle to make sense of them and may well draw the wrong conclusions altogether. After all, there can be no private dictionary in interpreting these asynchronous patterns, because if there were then it would be either sold (a whole branch of the history of espionage has involved traitors selling cryptological private dictionaries from one side to the other) or learned by a modern AI algorithm. Therefore they have to be arbitrary. And that is precisely why this method of communication cannot work.

We will proceed by way of a simple example but the reader will soon be able to see that there is a potential infinity of infinitely silly examples. Imagine that while writing a block of text in an email the author suddenly finds an earlier block in the same text he has been writing is highlighted temporarily. What sort of inference ought he to draw from this? Here are some possible inferences:

  • The highlighted text is particularly pertinent and important.

  • The highlighted text is a distraction and ought to be removed.

  • The highlighted text contains some distinct and significant message that ought to be read in a completely different way or context from the text it surrounds.

  • What should be read is not the highlighted text at all but the text immediately before and immediately after the highlighted text, in the search for some encrypted message within those folds.

At best, the recipient of such an encrypted communication will run through as many of these possible options as he can imagine and will do his best to try to find meaning. But the meaning (s)he finds may not be the right one. That is because as we have already pointed out in our essay on suggestivism in the event of ambiguity (and virtually all asynchronous communications are highly ambiguous because they are using a function designed for something completely different to encrypt a message, an inherently ambiguous business) the direction the receiving party takes the ambiguity is itself ambiguous and may depend upon a multiplicity of different factors, for example:

  • the interests and desires of the receiving party

  • what the receiving party thinks the sending party (whichever sending party the receiving party may imagine it to be) wants the receiving party to think or to do

  • the fears and concerns of the receiving party

  • the fatigue, clarity of mind, state of intoxication, physical health, and mental health, of the receiving party

  • the breadth of a person's imagination (which in turn is affected by all the other factors set out in this list)

  • the time available to the receiving party (the more in a rush the receiving party, the fewer possible options he will consider in the face of ambiguity)

  • any anxieties on the mind of the receiving party (if the receiving party is anxious about something, (s)he is likely to interpret an ambiguity in light of the anxiety on his or her mind)

  • the general mood of the receiving party (a person in a good mood is more likely to interpret an ambiguity in a positive way; versa versa)

The challenge with any asynchronous messaging method is therefore precisely that the correct construction of the asynchronous message depends upon something asynchronous, namely the state(s) of mind of the receiving party the determination of which is an art not a science and not something that can be done by a computer (or it would be decipherable using conventional synchronous cryptological methods). It therefore turns out that the "mood gap" between sender and receiver of the message can be bridged reliably only if the two communicating parties know one-another so well that they can predict one-another's moods, hopes and anxieties so well that they can each predict what an ambiguity is likely to mean to the other one. This places a major limiting factor upon NAFF methods of communication: the two communicating parties need to know one-another extraordinarily well. Merely working together is probably not enough, unless they have worked together constantly for twenty years (and even then work colleagues manage to keep manifold secrets from one another). The only people that NAFF communications turn out to be able to work between are people who live together, and usually we mean that they share the same bed. That is because people who share intimate spaces so perpetually generally cannot hide secrets from one-another and can understand how one-another think in a way that no other two human beings or any machine can. NAFF communications operate effectively only between people who are profoundly intimate with one another.

The other principal problem with NAFF communications is the identity crisis, which we have already discussed in our essay on suggestivism mentioned above. This author's beloved has persistently failed to distinguish the identities of the person who loves her from the identities of other malfeasors, when using asynchronous messaging systems (of which the various kinds of suggestivism we have already discussed serve as partial examples - they are partially asynchronous systems, something we will move onto discussing briefly). The net result of this is that she kept thinking she was having conversations with her beloved when in fact she was having conversations with totally different people; and she was insufficiently alert to this risk because she had not been reading and studying this author's articles and other reflections upon questions of asynchronous cryptology with sufficient care. Any asynchronous communication is intentionally going to seek to keep the identity of the communicating parties a secret, as discovering their identities is the first step towards hacking the cipher embodied in the asynchronous communication.

Once you know who the parties are, you can take a better guess at what they might mean by something that appears to the casual onlooker to be entirely random. Because she had not spent sufficient time recently with her beloved, or sufficiently explored his reasons and motivations that drove the decisions he makes on a day-to-day basis, she was easily fooled into the identity crisis of believing that other parties saying things to her were saying them in the name of her beloved, this author, because she imagined that he had motivations similar to those of the somewhat grubby people she typically hangs around with. The fact is that he does not; and his motivations and incentives are extremely unusual even amongst the broad family of people who engage with cryptological functions. Had she more intimately understood this, she would have let herself less often be fooled by the identity crisis that to an extent infiltrates all asynchronous communications: the fact that any third party intervenor can step into an asynchronous conversation and disrupt it. Consider for example this:

Few would aver that this is not an asynchronous communication. But what on earth does it mean? Here are some options:

  • It is a lewd childish drawing of male genitals

  • It is a reference to someone having a vasectomy (or the threat of one)

  • It means that Daddy is in the kitchen

  • It is a threat of grievous bodily harm, in that someone is going to be castrated violently

  • There are some vegetables that need to be cut up in the kitchen

  • There are some VEGETABLES that need to be CUT UP in the KITCHEN

  • A reference to fast, sharp sex

  • A reference to sex in certain distinctive sexual positions

This is obviously a silly example but it just goes to show that asynchronous communication is extremely naff and that is why we have defined it as NAFF. Moreover anyone can draw the above image with ease; although it appears to be a childish drawing, it is one that can be mimicked by anyone. So if two people start using a cipher based upon apparently crude childish drawings of genitals - and there are some merits to be said for such an approach because it is so bizarre it passes the test amply of not looking like a cipher at all - then it is possible for a Holmes-like genius character to realise that it is a cipher and to interfere with it with malicious intent. That of course is what happened with suggestivism, as we wrote earlier.

And now we will delve into one of the long-forgotten historical masterminds of asynchronous cryptology, Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer, the only German philosopher ever to have written lucidly about anything, engage in a superlative analysis of asynchronous cryptology in his infamously depressing masterpiece, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (imperfectly translated into English as "The World as Will and Representation", although an entire essay could be written just on the subject of whether that is a good translation of the title or not). This curious two-volume work turned Kantian idealism on its head, by positing that because there is a world of unknowable objects out there (this is the idealist thesis in philosophy) that somehow reflects the external perceptible world; and because the external world is undoubtedly very bad, therefore the real unknowable world that involves the mysteries of consciousness and the possibility of knowledge, must also be very bad and hence it is better that it did not exist at all. Because the distinction between the perceptible world and the real world is bound up with mankind's numinous capacity for cognition, it is better that we humans not exist at all - we are just instruments for sewing misery through our perpetuation of the external world's miserable effects - and hence we should all commit suicide. This admittedly curious conclusion to a work of philosophy, demonstrating as it does the Schopenhauer was obviously mad, is nonetheless peculiarly engaging. The contributions of the limitless capacity of human cognition to find sense in things that are illogical can only have profoundly depressing consequences for human sanity. However at this stage we must leave Schopenhauer, a superlative author worthy of a lifetime of study, with just the foregoing collection of teasing remarks.

There can be little doubt that the deployment of asynchronous cryptology beyond a certain degree (and that degree will be different in the case of each field agent) entails a downward spiral into psychosis. In the end one ascribes hidden significance to daily events that have no significance at all: for example, a flickering lightbulb might be perceived as an index of danger whereas in fact it is just the consequence of a shaky domestic electricity system. That is why asynchronous cryptology must be used only with the utmost caution.

The human mind allows the possibility of asynchronous leaps of logic, as the Austrian logician Kurt Godel famously observed: something which no computer can undertake. That was the point Godel made in his essay What is Cantor's Continuum Problem, and it renders asynchronous cryptology attractive because if one can tap into this feature of the human mind then one ought to be able to devise a system of cryptology that cannot be outwitted or deciphered by modern computational techniques, no matter how sophisticated contemporary artificial intelligence algorithms become. That is because the human mind is capable of seeing entirely imaginative or illogical connections between ideas, things a computer cannot learn because all computational systems are ultimately closed systems and hence cannot learn to be imaginative in the human sense of the word.

Nevertheless the greater majority of daily human thinking is in fact synchronous; for the most part humans work like machines. Imagination is only a small proportion of our daily intellectual ritual. The excessive use of asynchronous cryptology will overload the mind, inviting the faculty of human cognition to engage in leaps of logic from virtually any small thing where in fact the vast majority of those logical leaps are not warranted. The net result is that when you hear the doorbell ring at an unusual hour you conclude that this is the three-minute warning for nuclear armageddon; or where you see a sign outside a massage parlour saying "2hr Aroma 700 Baht" (and this is very Russian; Russian psychoses about language use being references to catastrophic events is a matter about which we have written a great deal) you think this is an invitation to assassinate someone using poisonous gas.

People who start to become swallowed by such delusions are raving. They have descended into psychosis, and they start to embrace a megalomanic air in which they see every small event as indicative of some grand plan whereas in fact the greater part of each day in the lives of all humans, even people with extraordinary professional activities such as field agents, are in fact mundane, predictable and ordinary. Only a small sliver of the world is unusual in the way anticipated by asynchronous cryptology, and the world is not one enormous theatre of string puppets. People who think like that in the professional environments in which cryptologists typically work need retiring, because they have lost all touch with reality. The cryptologist is bound not to press psychologically unstable individuals into this kind of psychosis. In the event that it occurs, psychiatric attention should be sought immediately so that the person can be brought back to earth.

We conclude by returning to some observations about Sherlock Holmes's Dancing Men. Conan Doyle's cipher was a work of genius. The Dancing Men were far more than a simplistic synchronous cipher in which 26 letters of the Latin alphabet were represented by 26 characters in some different alphabet. That would have been a simple cipher, one easy for Holmes to crack and easy for any modern computer. The ingenuity involved in The Dancing Men derives from the fact that the shape of each dancing man is relevant having regard to the identity of the character it represents and the general tenor of the message. In other words The Dancing Men were a double cipher, partially synchronous and partially asynchronous. I don't think Jeremy Brett's eponymous telemovie series about Arthur Conan Doyle's fictitious character of Sherlock Holmes, really understood the significance of The Dancing Men. There was an unknown relationship between the shapes of each of the dancing men and the letters they stood for and the messages they represented, and Brett's telemovie never explored that subtle complexity. It turns out that you can study The Dancing Men for hours, not just exploring the fact that the most common dancing men must represent the letter "E" because that is the most common letter in the English language; but asking why each dancing man is the shape that it really is and could the same dancing men represent different characters of the alphabet in messages of different context.

We said that we would revert with some observations on partially asynchronous cryptology, and it is with these observations that we have concluded this essay. We are tentatively of the view that partially asynchronous cryptology represents the future of cryptological science in a world with computers of potentially infinite algorithmic capacity, because it represents the human mind's propensity to mix both logic with imagination and hence it may be possible to deploy such a set of tools in cryptology without potentially driving the receiving party to the communications insane. But with these tantalising remarks we must now draw this essay to a conclusion, and leave these observations to be picked up on at a future juncture.


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