Stone Age Distributed Computing

Yuval Emek, Jasmin Smula, Roger Wattenhofer

The traditional models of distributed computing focus mainly on networks of computer-like devices that can exchange large messages with their neighbors and perform arbitrary local computations. Recently, there is a trend to apply distributed computing methods to networks of sub-microprocessor devices, e.g., biological cellular networks or networks of nano-devices. However, the suitability of the traditional distributed computing models to these types of networks is questionable: do tiny bio/nano nodes "compute" and/or "communicate" essentially the same as a computer? In this paper, we introduce a new model that depicts a network of randomized finite state machines operating in an asynchronous environment. Although the computation and communication capabilities of each individual device in the new model are, by design, much weaker than those of a computer, we show that some of the most important and extensively studied distributed computing problems can still be solved efficiently.

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