CO-UTILITY: Conciliating Individual Freedom and Common Good in the Information Society
TWCF Number
Project Duration
September 1 / 2014
- August 14 / 2017
Core Funding Area
Individual Freedom and Free Markets
Amount Awarded
Grant DOI*

* A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

Josep Domingo-Ferrer
Institution Fundació URV

How can we guarantee that a global society without a common legal framework will operate smoothly? If charity and generosity do not arise spontaneously, one might design transactions so that helping others remains the best rational option.

In this project, we will investigate how the strategic problem above can be addressed in the global information society, with a special focus on peer-to-peer (P2P) protocols. The new concept of co-utility is central to our project. In game-theoretic terms, any interaction between peers offers co-utility or is co-utile if the best option for a player to maximize her utility is to make sure the other players also get a fair share of utility.

Example utilities in the information society transactions are functionality, security, and privacy. In general, we can define these terms as follows: “Functionality” refers to a system performing its intended function/delivering its intended service in an efficient way, where “efficient” means using reasonable resources (computing time and storage, in the case of the information society). “Security” refers to a system being robust against attacks aimed at disrupting its operation or at breaking into it in order to steal, inject, or counterfeit information. “Privacy” means that the human individuals actively or passively interacting with the system can limit/control the information that is disclosed of them through that interaction.

The aim of the project is to change the way information society transactions are designed: we go beyond self-enforcement by design, we aim at co-utility by-design (i.e., “If I follow the rules, this is the best option not only for me but for someone else as well”). This project will show how an information society can operate in a smooth, harmonious, and even humanitarian way under co-utile protocols and procedures. Potentially, findings may extend beyond the information society to, for example, international trade, international relations, and even international solidarity.

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