Communication protocols for digital devices are very efficient but also very brittle: They require information to be specified in a precise order with a precise number of bits. If sender and receiver — say, a computer and a printer — are off by even a single bit relative to each other, communication between them breaks down entirely.
Humans are much more flexible. Two strangers may come to a conversation with wildly differing vocabularies and frames of reference, but they will quickly assess the extent of their mutual understanding and tailor their speech accordingly.
CSAIL researcher Madhu Sudan, an adjunct professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and a principal researcher at Microsoft Research New England, wants to bring that type of flexibility to computer communication. In a series of recent papers, he and his colleagues have begun to describe theoretical limits on the degree of imprecision that communicating computers can tolerate, with very real implications for the design of communication protocols.
Read more at MIT News: http://bit.ly/1yImhFC