Information Flow in Computational Systems

Praveen Venkatesh, Sanghamitra Dutta, Pulkit Grover

We develop a theoretical framework for defining and identifying flows of information in computational systems. Here, a computational system is assumed to be a directed graph, with "clocked" nodes that send transmissions to each other along the edges of the graph at discrete points in time. We are interested in a definition that captures the dynamic flow of information about a specific message, and which guarantees an unbroken "information path" between appropriately defined inputs and outputs in the directed graph. Prior measures, including those based on Granger Causality and Directed Information, fail to provide clear assumptions and guarantees about when they correctly reflect information flow about a message. We take a systematic approach---iterating through candidate definitions and counterexamples---to arrive at a definition for information flow that is based on conditional mutual information, and which satisfies desirable properties, including the existence of information paths. Finally, we describe how information flow might be detected in a noiseless setting, and provide an algorithm to identify information paths on the time-unrolled graph of a computational system.

Knowledge Graph



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