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"If I had to get a new Ph.D. now, I'd get it in polymer engineering - the manipulation of matter."
- Bart Kosko

AIRE  
  A piece of software that can break through encryption to determine exactly how a compiled program accomplishes its tasks.  

This would be a godsend for the smaller companies of the world - and a big company's worst nightmare. An AIRE (Artificially Intelligent Reverse Engineer) automates what is today an elaborate and one-of-a-kind analysis.

…For Realization Engineering you have to take a ton of cryptography (the important parts of RE from the standpoint of los corporados is keeping everything you do from instantly being run through an AIRE and winding up in public domain).
From Mother of Storms, by John Barnes.
Published by Tor in 1994
Additional resources -

Reverse engineering (or forensic engineering) is a real-world field with a variety of legal uses. One such use is to reverse engineer a software product to tease apart its various elements in a particular light; for example, you might be looking for elements that could be patented. Another is to look at products that are in the public domain or have been made available due to deregulation; can a product be improved, given the availability of better software methods? Or can a complex product, with software residing in several integrate circuits, be improved with more modern ICs? Take a look at Micro Technology Services and TAEUS, both companies that work in this area.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Mother of Storms
  More Ideas and Technology by John Barnes
  Tech news articles related to Mother of Storms
  Tech news articles related to works by John Barnes

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