Access Control on my Mind

I just started watching Westworld for the first time. Yes I know I’m late to the party, but such a show is a dangerous thing for me since I’ll binge all available episodes in one shot if given the chance.

I loved the first season overall, but a scene from Season 1 Episode 9 stood out to me (Spoilers for Season 1 below!)

In the scene, Bernard requires Dr. Ford’s approval in order to access his own earliest memories. As a security guy I found this compelling. How does one go about implementing an access control system for someone else’s mind?

The Bank Pin Setup

One toy problem setup is as follows:

  1. I start a savings account for my future child.
  2. When they are old enough to remember, I give them the bank pin but XOR’d with another number.
  3. I promise to give them the second number when they turn 18.

Note: in this toy problem we must ignore the simple approach of asking a gullible bank attendant for your PIN. I expect my future child to be quite charming so this is a legitimate and effective strategy.

Upon completion, I have stored a value in my child’s memory (saving on my own limited mental capacity) and they require my assistance to access it.

How does this work for Hosts?

Bernard being a walking computer (SPOILER) definitely makes this setup even more feasible. Perhaps there is a secure enclave built within him that immediately encrypts all memories? Or more simply Dr. Ford can just extract, encrypt and reinsert Bernard’s memories during a maintenance session.

The Split Personality Setup

A more interesting question for humans is how could I hide information from another personality residing in my mind? If I knew my alternative personality lacked patience, I could encode the encryption key in some kind of puzzle.

Funnily enough, I’ve already successfully tested this theoretical approach. Being clever and distrustful, past Michael (me but referred to in third person to emphasize the difference in personality) decided to save his Ledger seed phrase in a random permutation and encrypt that permutation order with a long phrase secured by a puzzle. This way anyone with the physical backup would still need one more step in order to get my paltry crypto assets (literally not worth much more than the Ledger itself).

Surprise surprise, while I had tested this recovery two weeks after implementing it, I recently revisited it and found I no longer knew how to decode the garbage I had written down. Cue an annoying migration of assets to a temporary wallet.

Verdict: Westworld is accurate, humans can hide knowledge from themselves in their own mind, I’m always too clever for my own good.