Let's design a flexible code language for secret agents

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Mungo
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Let's design a flexible code language for secret agents

Post by Mungo »

Hi there,

I decided to try and see if it's possible to design a code language in the spirit of agent stories and such. I'd like to hear your ideas and input on this topic; how to proceed with it.

The requirements for the code language are:
- Must be able to have a discussion with a group of people, while at the same time having a secret conversation with some of them about a completely different topic without the others noticing anything.
- Must sound like a regular discussion in person's own language.
- Must be compatible with all (or most) existing languages in the world.
- After been given only few simple rules what to listen to, you must be able to learn the code language by following these secret discussions. Other code language users should be able to explain to you the details of the code language, in the code language.

In other words, you must be able to discuss about virtually anything, while there are "outsiders" in the discussion with you. You should even be able to learn the code language this way, while others are in the discussion.

Since the code needs to be compatible with most languages, it should probably be based on more conceptual kinds of things instead of specific words. These could be:
- distance (near vs. far)
- counts of things (single vs. multiple)
- precision (exact amounts/qualities vs. non-exact amounts/qualities)
- time (now vs. before/later)
- actions (someone/something is doing something)
- sentence types (statement/question/command/pondering)
- bodily gestures (hand signals/facial expressions)
- etc...

Since the code language should work during regular discussions, the coded sentences must be embedded between the regular sentences. This means those sentences need some kind of indicator when they're happening.

A single word at the start of the sentence won't be enough, since that word could easily be used by anyone in the same fashion. This leaves at least three options which might work:

1. Sentence starting with a specific predefined combination of words from the list earlier in this post.
2. Using sentence types and/or words as a challenge/response method.
3. Bodily gestures.

Or any combination of the above. Let's look at these one by one:


***** 1. Sentence starting with a specific predefined combination of words. *****

Sentences could be started in specific ways to indicate which person is being discussed. These kinds of words could be for example:

- Currently experienced time: now/always
- Currently seen single thing: that/it/car/dog/...
- Words describing exact/full amounts: exactly/precicely/all/everything/total
- Currently happening action: driving/moving/...
- Verb: is/can/starts/...
- Noun: food/cat/people/electricity/...

So instead of using the word "you" to describe who is being discussed in that sentence, you could use combination of words from the above list. Examples:

A single thing does exactly something: (single thing) + (verb) + (exact amount)
"It is precisely"
"Car arrives exactly"
"Moving is totally"
"That is all"

...and then the sentence can continue whichever way wanted. The idea is that the rest of the sentence is now about "you". Example:

"__It is total__ disaster, because it can't keep up with the competition."
Translation: "You're a total disaster, because you can't keep up with the competition."

"__Cat sees everything__ from higher ground."
Translation: "You see everything from higher ground/position/level of hierarchy."


Maybe you could also anchor some words to mean specific things or persons for the rest of the discussion. One idea how to do this could simply be a word combination in the beginning of a sentence:
"That is" + noun
Translation: "You are" (the noun)

Example:
"That is food, which goes bad easily."
Now the word "food" always refers to "you". The rest of the above sentence already describes things about "you".

This raises a question: What about the other people in the discussion? They can also talk about the "food". This shouldn't affect the coded discussion. Maybe this could be remedied by using specific types of sentences when discussing the coded topic? This takes us to the next topic:


***** 2. Using sentence types and/or words as a challenge/response method. *****

For example discussing about "you" (using the word "food"), you could always talk in "statements", i.e. like something is a fact. Examples:

"Food was delivered late since the cook was sleeping."
Translation: "You received the delivery late since the one responsible was sleeping."
Or maybe it could mean: "You were taken to destination late since the one responsible was sleeping."

If sentence types could be used to separate discussions about "you" and "me" and other people, then more than one sentence type is required for coded discussions. Maybe when you talk about yourself ("I/me/myself"), the sentence would be more of a pondering, non-statement. Maybe even not in the present moment. Examples:

"Food could have been better if you had more resources in the company."
Translation: "I could have performed better if you had more resources in the company."

"Food might be late tonight."
Translation: "I might be late tonight."


To ensure you are actually talking with a person who responds to you in code language, level of extra security might be required. Challenge/response type of system could be used. One simple idea how to do this could be to assign each sentence type a number and then counting those numbers up and comparing the result to some predefined reference value (such as anything divisible by 3).

Now when a person gets their turn in the discussion, he/she has to start their own turn with such a sentence, which type/value adds up to the next number divisible by 3. All sentences spoken afterwards by that person in their turn start adding up the value from 0 again.

For example whenever a person is talking about "you" (using the word "you" or the code word "food"), that would be number 1.
Whenever a person is talking about themselves (again, in code or using the word "me/I/myself"), that would be number 2. Question could be number 6, due to there still being need for more sentence types.

Example sentence counting. The numers are the counted values at that point of discussion:
Person 1 talks about self: 2
Person 1 talks about other: 3 (reaches reference value, and thus resets back to 0)
Person 2 makes a question: 6 (again resets back to 0)
Person 1 talks about other: 2
Person 1 makes a question: 8
Person 2 talks about other: 9 (resets back to 0)
Person 2 talks about self: 2
Person 3 talks about self: 4 (wrong response! person changed in discussion and the result didn't add up to 3, 6, or 9, so counter resets back to 0)
Person 1 talks about self 2
...and so on...


***** 3. Bodily gestures. *****

It might make things easier to discuss if you could use shortcuts to describe specific things. For example if you could simply use a non-attention attracting hand gesture to define when you're talking about "you" or "me", that would remove some complexities from the code language.

You could use these gestures in same way as the language itself. I.e. tell the other person that: "the subject in this single sentence is you". Or "from now on this specific word I'm saying right now is anchored to mean you".

Example:
Point the index finger casually in the air and talk about weather. Whatever you say about weather applies to the listener.

It might make sense to give different meaning to left and right hands. Here are just a few random ideas how their meaning might differ in a discussion:
- Left hand: good/neutral things or maybe is used to explain topics.
- Right hand: bad/negative things or maybe is used to give commands.
- Both hands: request information.

You could easily add other gestures in the system, namely facial expressions, combinations of using fingers and face, etc... Example:

Let's say pointing the right index finger means "you have to" and right eye means "to know something". If you swipe your right eye with your right index finger (rest of the fingers in a fist) you give the message "you have to know". This would refer to the topic you're currently discussing about.

If left hand little finger means "I do not" and right hand little finger means "Do not", swiping the right eye with right hand little finger (other fingers in a fist) would mean: "You don't know". Doing the same with left hand little finger would mean "I do not know".

-----------------------

All ideas are welcome on how to improve this code language so that it covers discussing anything and anyone. Including people right next to you who should not know that you are discussing about them at the moment. [;)]
Mungo
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Re: Let's design a flexible code language for secret agents

Post by Mungo »

***** EXTRA: Using numbers to communicate ideas and actions. *****

You could also use numbers to communicate different kinds of things to people. For example if you combined numbers, you could convey all kinds of information. As an example take a look at the below number groups A, B and C:

Group A:
1 = You
2 = Me
3 = We
4 = They
5 = Regular people
6 = Our people
7 = Our leaders
8 = Our non leaders
9 = Traitors

Group B:
1 = Does bad to
2 = Does good to
3 = Finds out things about
4 = Learns from
5 = Knows about
6 = Believes in
7 = Leads
8 = Follows
9 = Destroys

Group C:
1 = Informs the current status
2 = Asks about current status
3 = Ask to inform when situation changes
4 = Inform that the situation has changed

If they were always expected to be in the sequence A B A C. You could drop number from the end OR you could replace any of them with a zero. Zero means that number is ignored completely. Then you could form messages in the following way:

1 4 2 = You, Learn from, Me
3 0 7 = We, ___, the Leaders
8 3 5 2 = Non leaders, find out things about, regular people, (question about current status, i.e. how is it going currently)

Those numbers could be used in place of time (11:30 pm, etc.) or whatever works in the current situation.

This brings the problem: you must be able to somehow differentiate when you're actually sending a message using that method and when you are not. One way you could do this is by using this method in specific sentence types. Maybe when you're talking about yourself in the code language, or in regular language, or something.
Mungo
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Re: Let's design a flexible code language for secret agents

Post by Mungo »

An idea popped into my head about this code language:

If someone says:
"That is one excellent question."

It could be used as a teaching method, if it was used to describe the format of the code language:

1. "That" would mean that I'm currently describing how to talk about "you".
2. "is" means that the sentence must be in present moment, a currently happening event.
3. "one" means that I must use words that describe a single specific entity/thing/something when talking about "you". Basically anything that answers the question "What" can be used: It/cat/car/driving/vacation/etc....
4. "excellent" is a bit more tricky, but it would imply that synonyms of the word "excellent" could be used.
5. "question" would mean that the rest of the sentence is actually a question in disguise of a regular sentence.

So when asking something about "you", you would combine points 3/4/5 one after the other. Here's an example:
"Car restoration" + "is excellent for" + "spending pastime on non-meaningful things."

So the code for indicating that this is a question about "you" is the following part:
"Car restoration" + "is excellent for"

The actual content of the question is this:
"spending pastime on non-meaningful things."

So the translation could be something along the lines of "Why are you spending pastime on non-meaningful things?"

----

Alternate idea of the same format:

The above would not be a question, but a statement about "you". Then the translated sentence would be:

"You are spending pastime on non-meaningful things."

or:

"You are excellent at spending pastime on non-meaningful things."
Mungo
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Re: Let's design a flexible code language for secret agents

Post by Mungo »

I received comments from elsewhere that the code language idea was too unintuitive what it's shaping up to be at the moment. Here's a more developed idea of it.

When you talk about someone (you or me), it could possibly be achieved by using sentence structures. I got the idea from impro theater. (Yes/And method)

First you agree to whatever was said to you; this tells listeners to stay alert, since code language might follow. Then you use a keyword, which describes who is being discussed. Then comes the actual content.

Example structures which could work:

(agree) + (what) + (content)
(agree) + (where) + (content)
(agree) + (when) + (content)
(agree) + (why) + (content)

Agreement can be anything that is clear to the listener that you agree with them:
"Yes"
"Naturally"
"I think you're right"
"Ofcourse it's true".

The what/where/when/why are descriptive words indicating who is being discussed in that sentence. Even if the rest of the sentence explicitly mentions a specific subject (such as "dogs"), the actual subject is always the one indicated by the keyword in the what/where/when/why section.

So for example you wouldn't use the word "when" per se, but words describing time ("now/then/yesterday/tomorrow/last christmas/etc.") when discussing about "me" or "you". Or maybe the word referring to future/past/present could be used to tell the difference who is the actual subject of the sentence (you/me/etc.). Both ideas might work. The subject of the full sentence should always be thought to be the one marked by the "what/where/when/why" part.

Example, where the word "tomorrow" means "me/myself/I":
"Yes, ofcourse!" + "Tomorrow" + "local dogs will be searching for the missing package."

Translation:
"Tomorrow I will be searching for the missing package."

Notice that "tomorrow" refers to "me" so the subject, "local dogs", means "me".

Another example, where the word "then" means "me/myself/I":
"That's true and" + "then" + "it's possible for the boss to arrive on time."

Translation:
"Then it's possible for me to arrive on time."

Notice that "then" refers to "me" so the subject, "the boss", means "me".
Mungo
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Re: Let's design a flexible code language for secret agents

Post by Mungo »

Here's the next iteration, trying to make things more intuitive.

When speaking in code language you always keep the sentences in present tense and use code word combinations to deliver the message.

----

When you talk about yourself ("me"), you would use the following rule:
(one thing) + "is" + (adjective) + message.

Teaching + is + fun.
Translation: I like to teach.

According to romans, teaching + is + fun + during evenings.
Translation: I like to teach during evenings.

So you would just ignore the preceding part of the sentence before you reach the part that fits the "talking about myself".
To make it very specific, the "one thing" at the start of the code block could be action of sorts instead of a physical thing:

OK words to use: driving, teaching, sleeping, thinking, etc.
Not OK words to use: car, teacher, sleep, thought, etc.

----

When you talk about your discussion partner ("you"), you would use the following rule:
(all of several things) + "are" + (adjective) + message.

French people + are + fast + learners.
Translation "You are a fast learner."

Otters + are + easy + to bribe with things they like.
Translation: You are easy to bribe with things you like.

----

Another way to talk about "you":
(one thing) + "is just" + message.

It is just what I need.
Translation: You are what I need.

It's just way too difficult to understand.
Translation: You are way too difficult to understand.

That is just too slow for our use.
Translation: You are too slow for our use.
Last edited by Mungo on 02 Oct 2021 17:18, edited 1 time in total.
Mungo
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Re: Let's design a flexible code language for secret agents

Post by Mungo »

You could extend the code language by using hand signs.

For example the below hand sign (with right hand) would mean "I want you to be of this opinion about the topic."
You would wave your right hand with the below hand sign for example when mentioning some person's name and then proceed explaining what that person thinks about something.
Image

Example:
Remember "Peter" (+ hand sign) from Michigan? He called me and said that he likes to keep some distance to his neighbours since they've started snooping around.

Translation: "Keep your distance to your neighbours."
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