Can anyone give me a reference to the origin of the statement "There is no central arbiter of truth in open distributed systems."

Possibly it was Carl Hewitt in "The Challenge of Open Systems" Byte Magazine. April 1985. Can anyone confirm this?


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    $\begingroup$ This is what wikipedia seems to suggest. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2013 at 12:44

1 Answer 1


The exact quotation seems to be:

"Pluralism: There is no central arbiter of truth in the system."


(p. 239, 2nd bullet point.)

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    $\begingroup$ more context. from a section entitled "information processing principles for the future". Hewitt was not making an assertion about existing systems at the time (1985) as much as discussing future design goals/principles or ideal "best practices". it starts with the sentence "...other principles should be adopted in constructing reliable systems that meet the needs of open systems." $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Mar 8, 2013 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ However this cannot mean that it is always possible to add a "central arbiter of truth" to an existing system and leave its behaviour unchanged. So in my opinion the statement can be taken to be universal. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2013 at 23:16

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