At the risk of oversimplification, how do I explain indistinguishability obfuscation (iO) to my grandmother?

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    $\begingroup$ What kind of prior knowledge do you want to assume for your grandmother (assuming this is not a metaphor)? In what context is it necessary / useful for her to learn about iO, or rather in what context did this request originate? Is a basic understanding of the definition sufficient or should it also be put into some specific context as to how that might be usefully applied? (The definition itself tends to make a "useless" impression) $\endgroup$
    – SEJPM
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ I wish to explain to her in a way that is both abstract and concrete -- perhaps by way of an analogy? $\endgroup$
    – Nathan Aw
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ It depends, how much does your grandmother know about multilinear maps? $\endgroup$
    – Mikero
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ I think OP is looking for the iO-equivalent of the zero-knowledge secret cave passthrough (e.g. mart-e.be/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/vote2.jpg), as in, without much (if any) mathematical foundation. If that's the case, I fear that this question might be unanswerable. Would be a shame to close the question though, I really like it :'-) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ @RubenDeSmet the issue is that iO already seems useless at first (and second) glance when looking at the formal definition. When you try to explain it using a metaphor it gets worse. $\endgroup$
    – Maeher
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 11:22

1 Answer 1


iO removes all metadata from the program.

  • $\begingroup$ Honestly, I don't think any of my grandparents have a good (if any) notion of "metadata", "programme" or even "to remove". $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review $\endgroup$
    – kelalaka
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ @kelalaka I disagree. It is clearly an attempt to answer the question. It is a very bad, and arguably incorrect, answer but an answer nonetheless. $\endgroup$
    – Maeher
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 12:13

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