There’s an upcoming post I’m more interested in at the moment, so let me get this obligatory post out of the way. 😉
For various reasons, I missed Crypto and Eurocrypt each of the past 2 years. The truth is, sometimes I am a bit ambivalent about going to Crypto: I occasionally find the atmosphere very pressurized, with people sometimes being more interested in “selling” their results, or in “pushing” new results, than in discussing the underlying science. (An example of this is the rump session, where in some conferences people discuss open problems and ongoing research, while in crypto people market their finished results. Case in point here where, as far as I could tell, the “open problems” session contained only one piece of ongoing work.)
This year, it didn’t bother me as much — maybe I avoided those discussions, or maybe getting tenure reduced some of the pressure I had felt in the past. In fact, Crypto this year was great. It was wonderful to speak with some people I hadn’t seen in a while, as well as to meet new people, some of whom I had only previously “talked to” over email or in on-line PC meetings. I also got a chance to discuss lots of interesting technical issues.
Other thoughts and highlights:
- Is it just me, or is it really difficult to get much from a 20-minute conference talk? Some of the talks were just bad, other talks were fine but I much prefer a setting where I can ask questions in the middle of the talk — that way you don’t lose everything if you miss one slide.
I do think that we, in general, could do a better job of making our talks accessible to a wider audience. I tried to follow a cryptanalysis talk, really I did, but was lost by the second slide.
- The talks that stood out for me were:
- “How to Encipher Messages on a Small Domain: Deterministic Encryption and the Thorp Shuffle”: A really nice result, and Phil Rogaway gave a fantastic talk.
- “How Risky is the Random-Oracle Model”: Although I might quibble with some aspects of Phong’s presentation, the paper shows several attacks and raises some interesting questions.
- “Abstraction in Cryptography”, an invited talk by Maurer. Although I did not agree entirely with his claims that abstraction always makes things simpler, he did give one example that nicely illustrated his point.
- A sociologically interesting talk at the rump session, though I do not know what to make of it: “An alternative to Gentry’s fully homomorphic encryption scheme (We Do Exist!)”. The claim was that the authors had posted a paper on eprint, around the same time Gentry submitted his paper to STOC, that also described a fully homomorphic encryption scheme. As best as I can tell (this is based on a quick read and discussion with some other people), their paper does not quite show a fully homomorphic scheme but does show how to handle multiplications (and an unbounded number of additions) for any desired . Anyway, what I found more interesting about this was the questions it raises about how results are accepted in the crypto community.
- Jobs seemed to be on everyone’s mind, or maybe I am overly sensitive to it because I had a student graduating this year. Fortunately, the crypto job market seemed relatively strong to me (certainly compared with the rest of TCS), with both industry and universities hiring and several postdoc positions available.
I’m already looking forward to next year!