AAAI Publications, Twelfth International Conference on the Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning

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One Hundred Prisoners and a Lightbulb — Logic and Computation
Hans van Ditmarsch, Jan van Eijck, William Wu

Last modified: 2010-04-27


This is a case-study in knowledge representation. We analyze the 'one hundred prisoners and a lightbulb' puzzle. In this puzzle it is relevant what the agents (prisoners) know, how their knowledge changes due to observations, and how they affect the state of the world by changing facts, i.e., by their actions. These actions depend on the history of previous actions and observations. Part of its interest is that all actions are local, i.e. not publicly observable, and part of the problem is therefore how to disseminate local results to other agents, and make them global. The various solutions to the puzzle are presented as protocols (iterated functions from agent's local states, and histories of actions, to actions). The computational aspect is about average runtime termination under conditions of random ('fair') scheduling. The paper consists of three parts. First, we present different versions of the puzzle, and their solution. This includes a probabilistic version, and a version assuming synchronicity (the interval between prisoners' interrogations is known). The latter is very informative for the prisoners, and allows different protocols (with faster expected termination). Then, we model the puzzle in an epistemic logic incorporating dynamic operators for the effects of information changing events. Such events include both informative actions, where agents become more informed about the non-changing state of the world, and factual changes, wherein the world and the facts describing it change themselves as well. Finally, we give the expected termination results of several protocols when assuming random scheduling. This paper integrates the literature and presents novel contributions. Novel are: Firstly, Protocol 2 and Protocol 4. Secondly, the modelling in dynamic epistemic logic in its entirety - we do not know of a case study that combines factual and informational dynamics in a setting of non-public events, or of a similar proposal to handle asynchronous behaviour in a dynamic epistemic logic. Thirdly, our computational results on Protocol 2 and results from the manuscript from author Wu.

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