some technical steganography

Eric Hughes hughes at
Sun Mar 6 18:37:08 PST 1994

>How many different "notions of randomness"  
>are there?

Notions of randomness fall into two basic categories, probabilistic
and statistical.  The dividing line between the two of them is whether
you are doing inference forward or reverse.  In both cases the
randomness means evenly distributed.  

Probabilistic randomness is inference forward.  One assumes a
distribution of states before, the priors, and calculates the expected
distribution of states after, the posteriors.  Quantum mechanical
randomness is probabilistic randomness, since quantum randomness is
held to be inherent in nature, and from that predictions can be made
about the future.  The analysis of gambling strategies is
probabilistic, since one assumes something random, like dice rolls or
deck shuffles, and infers what the likely outcomes might be.  

Statistical randomness is inference backward.  One takes an observed
set of posteriors and tries to deduce whatever is available about the
priors.  Cryptographic randomness is of this nature, since one is
presented with ciphertext and asked to figure out the plaintext.  Two
major questions about statistical randomness and decidability, "Can I
see a pattern in it?", and compressibility, "Can I make a smaller
representation of it?"  Something is statistically random if one
cannot answer questions about it more accurately than by guessing.

There are various sorts of statistical randomness, depending on what
analytical tools are available.  If you allow any Turing machine, you
get algorithmic complexity concepts like Kolmogorov-Chaitin
randomness.  There is randomness which is incompressibility to a
particular coder.  There is randomness with respect to statistical
measures; one can take the difference of an observed posterior
distribution and a probabilistically calculated posterior distribution
and apply standard statistical tests.  How far is this distribution
from expected, and is the likelihood for this difference?

>I prefer random bit  
>sequences.  Or perhaps I should say - bit sequences with no apparent  

Your clarification makes a difference.  Randomness as lack of
structure can be quantified by looking for conditional probabilities.
E.g. P( x_0 = 1 | x_3 = 0 ) is the conditional probability that x_0 is
1 in the case that x_3 = 0.  If this probability is not 1/2 exactly,
then you have a correlation.  Conditional probabilities in general get
hairy fast, even when the predicates, i.e. the events, are limited to
particular bits equalling zero or one, and the standard propositional
connectives "and", "or", & "not".  There are questions of independence
whose resolution requires a detour into predicate logic.  
E.g. P( x = 0 | x = 1 ) = 0, clearly, because the two events are
logically dependent.

One of the ways of measuring these probabilities in the aggregate is
with entropy measures.  The entropy of a probability distribution is
the expected value of the negative logarithm.  If you can determine an
entropy which is not maximal, then you've found a correlation, even if
exploiting the correlation might not be obvious.  This maximality
must be exact, and not approximate.

For example, in the example I gave with 16 zero bits prepended to a
random message, the bit entropy deviates ever so slightly from
maximal, but that indicates a correlation.  The problem is that that
entropy is a probabilistic entropy, not a statistical one.  Had we
measured the same entropy value, it would not have allowed us to
conclude anything, if all we had was the entropy.  We could have also
just looked at the first few bits.

Anyway, since entropies are expected values on probabilities, one can
also have conditional entropies as well.  The criteria for
non-recognizability is that all conditional entropies are maximal.
This, again, is a probabilistic notion, since the calculation of all
conditional entropies for a particular message is an exponential time


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