Reading Material on Gender Essentialism

In a memo titled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber James Damore claims that “the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership” with the aim to show that “discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.” Soon after the memo went viral, tech sites such as Hacker News started to see supportive statements. Motherboard reports that the verdicts expressed in the memo have some traction amongst the author’s former co-workers. It stands to reason that this agreement is not the privilege of Google employees, or as Alice Goldfuss put it:

I’ve read the Google anti-diversity screed and you should, too. You meaning men. Women have heard this shit before. Why should men read it? Because it’s a 10 page essay that eloquently tears away the humanity of women and non-white men. It uses bullet points and proper spelling and sounds very calm and convincing. And it should, because it was written by one of your peers.

— Alice Goldfuss (@alicegoldfuss) August 5, 2017

While I do not work in (US) “tech” (I’m an academic cryptographer at a British university), I guess the fields are close enough. Besides, gender essentialism is a prevalent idea beyond the confines of STEM disciplines. As mentioned above, the memo offers a bullet point list to support its claim:

  1. [The differences between men and women] are universal across human cultures
  2. They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
  3. Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
  4. The underlying traits are highly heritable
  5. They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective

The memo and its defenders accuse those who disagree with its claims as being ideologically driven moralists1, hence the memo’s title. Alas, since I read several good critiques and their source material over the last few days, I figured I might attempt to summarise some of these arguments.2 Initially, my plan was to simply dump a list of books and articles here, but reading around as someone not so familiar with this literature, I found this mode of presentation (“well, my meta-study says your meta-study is full of it”) rather unhelpful. Thus, I opted for spelling out in more detail which arguments I found particularly illuminating.3

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Postdoc at Royal Holloway on Quantum-Safe Cryptography in Hardware

Together with Carlos Cid, we have a two-year postdoc position available. The position is focused on hardware implementations of quantum-safe cryptography such as lattice-based, code-based, hash-based or mq-based schemes. If you are interested, feel free to get in touch with Carlos or me. If you know of somone who might be interested, we would appreciate if you could make them aware of this position.

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Adventures in Cython Templating

Fpylll makes heavy use to Cython to expose Fplll’s functionality to Python. Fplll, in turn, makes use of C++ templates. For example, double, long double, dd_real ( and mpfr_t ( are supported as floating point types. While Cython supports C++ templates, we still have to generate code for all possible instantiations of the C++ templates for Python to use/call. The way I implemented these bindings is showing its limitations. For example, here’s how attribute access to the dimension of the Gram-Schmidt object looks like:

    def d(self):
        Number of rows of ``B`` (dimension of the lattice).

        >>> from fpylll import IntegerMatrix, GSO, set_precision
        >>> A = IntegerMatrix(11, 11)
        >>> M = GSO.Mat(A)
        >>> M.d

        if self._type == gso_mpz_d:
            return self._core.mpz_d.d
            if self._type == gso_mpz_ld:
                return self._core.mpz_ld.d
        if self._type == gso_mpz_dpe:
            return self._core.mpz_dpe.d
        IF HAVE_QD:
            if self._type == gso_mpz_dd:
                return self._core.mpz_dd.d
            if self._type == gso_mpz_qd:
                return self._core.mpz_qd.d
        if self._type == gso_mpz_mpfr:
            return self._core.mpz_mpfr.d

        if self._type == gso_long_d:
            return self._core.long_d.d
            if self._type == gso_long_ld:
                return self._core.long_ld.d
        if self._type == gso_long_dpe:
            return self._core.long_dpe.d
        IF HAVE_QD:
            if self._type == gso_long_dd:
                return self._core.long_dd.d
            if self._type == gso_long_qd:
                return self._core.long_qd.d
        if self._type == gso_long_mpfr:
            return self._core.long_mpfr.d

        raise RuntimeError("MatGSO object '%s' has no core."%self)

In the code above uppercase IF and ELSE are compile-time conditionals, lowercase if and else are run-time checks. If we wanted to add Z_NR<double> to the list of supported integer types (yep, Fplll supports that), then the above Python approximation of a switch/case statement would grow by a factor 50%. The same would have to be repeated for every member function or attribute. There must be a more better way.

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CCA Conversions

In Tightly Secure Ring-LWE Based Key Encapsulation with Short Ciphertexts we — together with Emmanuela Orsini, Kenny Paterson, Guy Peer and Nigel Smart — give a tight reduction of Alex Dent’s IND-CCA secure KEM conversion (from an OW-CPA schemes) when the underlying scheme is (Ring-)LWE:

Abstract: We provide a tight security proof for an IND-CCA Ring-LWE based Key Encapsulation Mechanism that is derived from a generic construction of Dent (IMA Cryptography and Coding, 2003). Such a tight reduction is not known for the generic construction. The resulting scheme has shorter ciphertexts than can be achieved with other generic constructions of Dent or by using the well-known Fujisaki-Okamoto constructions (PKC 1999, Crypto 1999). Our tight security proof is obtained by reducing to the security of the underlying Ring-LWE problem, avoiding an intermediate reduction to a CPA-secure encryption scheme. The proof technique maybe of interest for other schemes based on LWE and Ring-LWE.

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16th IMA International Conference on Cryptography and Coding

IMA-CCC is a crypto and coding theory conference biennially held in the UK. It was previously held in Cirencester. So you might have heard of it as the “Cirncester” conference. However, it has been moved to Oxford, so calling it Cirencester now is a bit confusing. Anyway, it is happening again this year. IMA is a small but fine conference with the added perk of being right before Christmas. This is great because around that time of the year Oxford is a fairly Christmas-y place to be.

12 – 14 December 2017, St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford

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Fplll Days 3: July 6 – 14, Amsterdam

We’ll have an fplll coding sprint aka “FPLLL Days” in July. This time around, we plan a slightly modified format compared to previous instances. That is, in order to encourage new developers to get involved, we plan to have a 2 day tutorial session (shorter or longer depending on participants/interest) before the start of FPLLL Days proper.

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London-ish Lattice Coding & Crypto Meeting: 10 May 2017

Lattice-based approaches are emerging as a common theme in modern cryptography and coding theory. In communications, they are indispensable mathematical tools to construct powerful error-correction codes achieving the capacity of wireless channels. In cryptography, they are used to building lattice-based schemes with provable security, better asymptotic efficiency, resilience against quantum attacks and new functionalities such as fully homomorphic encryption.

This meeting — on 10 May 2017 — is aimed at connecting the two communities in the UK with a common interest in lattices, with a long-term goal of building a synergy of the two fields. It will consist of several talks on related topics, with a format that will hopefully encourage interaction.

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