Processes, Systems \& Tests: Defining Contextual Equivalences

Clément Aubert, Daniele Varacca

In this position paper, we would like to offer and defend a new template to study equivalences between programs -- in the particular framework of process algebras for concurrent computation.We believe that our layered model of development will clarify the distinction that is too often left implicit between the tasks and duties of the programmer and of the tester. It will also enlighten pre-existing issues that have been running across process algebras as diverse as the calculus of communicating systems, the \(\pi\)-calculus -- also in its distributed version -- or mobile ambients.Our distinction starts by subdividing the notion of process itself in three conceptually separated entities, that we call \emph{Processes}, \emph{Systems} and \emph{Tests}.While the role of what can be observed and the subtleties in the definitions of congruences have been intensively studied, the fact that \emph{not every process can be tested}, and that \emph{the tester should have access to a different set of tools than the programmer} is curiously left out, or at least not often formally discussed.We argue that this blind spot comes from the under-specification of contexts -- environments in which comparisons takes place -- that play multiple distinct roles but supposedly always \enquote{stay the same}.We illustrate our statement with a simple Java example, the \enquote{usual} concurrent languages, but also back it up with \(\lambda\)-calculus and existing implementations of concurrent languages as well.

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