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How can 2 werewolves (or other secret/outcasts group members) with current technology find/confirm each other without meeting each other in person? Also, this process is publicly known and voluntary (eg. a government initiative to have werewolves meet each other, while the government themselves do not know who are/aren't werewolves (nor do they really care)).

In this example I use werewolves, but can be any kind of physically or behaviorally distinct "in" group (so lets assume these werewolves are just like ordinary people and want normal lives, but they have the ability to turn into werewolves).

So here are the rules...

  1. A wereperson can transform into a werewolf at any time and this process happens instantly and they are fully in control of themselves in this form
  2. Werewolves can't kill anyone (or at least we can assume they are subject to similar human laws among werewolves surrounding murder)
  3. Normal people will always attack a werewolf if they ever find one and may seek them out (note attack could include just plain discrimination against the wereperson and all of this may not be prohibited by the law)
  4. Normal people know there are werewolves among them

My initial thought was something like Bumble, but with an additional checkbox for "werewolf" (so people can't just know that someone is a wereperson just by the fact that they are using a certain app / service), but people could lie on the checkbox to get the identity of other (honest) werewolves.

Anyone have any ideas? Perhaps there is some kind of game theory model that already addresses this problem (eg. the game "The Werewolves" has a game theory strategy, but that game is much more structured / different than this problem)?

* What would be a solution if werewolves could only change in the presence of another werewolf who is also attempting to transform at the same time?

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    $\begingroup$ "Wereperson" ... that's an interesting concept, as it literally means "personperson". Anyway, have you considered how it easy it is to trap, for example, pedophiles in the act? And how very difficult it is for the "in" group person to really know & trust someone else? Basic take-away here is: it's not possible, through purely technological means, to determine if someone else is in-group or not. Even face to face meeting and long interaction is not sufficient to prove the matter. Could still be a "spy" or out-group agent infiltrator posing as an in-group member. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 27 '20 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas Yeah, the wereperson trap thing is a problem. Was trying to find some method(s) that, while not fool proof, may have highest probabilities of success. Posted question here as I continued to see if any game theory (in which I have no experience) models lent themselves to this problem. $\endgroup$ – lampShadesDrifter Apr 27 '20 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ I imagine Wereperson will be restrictive on who they marry. And have a strong culture about blood an marriage. So you can have matchmaker Shadchan that know every one of them. One match marker may not know them all, but a network of them will easly be able to indentify anyone. $\endgroup$ – xdtTransform Apr 28 '20 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ Can they just "mark" territory wolf-way? $\endgroup$ – user28434 Apr 28 '20 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ You could take some inspiration from how pedophiles contact each other through the internet. But on the other hand, they also regularly get busted. So you might also be able to identify a couple weaknesses in their operational security. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Apr 29 '20 at 10:13

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What you need is a chain of trust.

The proof of "I am a werewolf" absent trust is the same problem dealt with in digital signatures. If I sign a document with my private key, and publish my public key saying that I am Joe NotAWerewolf, all people will know is that someone who published a public key claiming to be Joe NotAWerewolf signed the document. They don't know that I am Joe NotAWerewolf, because there's no proof that the person who published the public key is who they say they are.

The solution is to have a trusted authority publish my public key, saying "Yes, this is Joe NotAWerewolf's public key, I've met him and can verify that."

This situation is slightly different, in that you don't want to make it publicly available, so what you want is a Shibboleth, digital or otherwise.

The government publishes a "Find Another Werecreature" app. They give the digital shibboleth (an algorithm that generates a consistent but indistinguishable-from-random string based on the time of execution and potentially other variables) to public representative werecreature that they, for whatever reason, trust and will not kill.

This individual can then spread the algorithm to other individuals he trusts and knows are werecreatures. As they, in turn, spread it to their werewolf networks, you can have werecreatures who never meet each other face-to-face but who can nonetheless confirm that they are part of the same trust network.

Now, in this more simplistic trust system, one defector could potentially expose many members, but if werewolves are inclined to "hang together or else we shall hang separately", it could work.

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    $\begingroup$ It's also worth noting that you can extend the web of trust comparatively easily to reduce the possibility of a bad actor ruining the web. To prevent the possibility of a rogue werewolf "adopting" non-werewolves into the network, have the requirement for "trustedness" require logrithmic confirmation with the size of the network. If new members are only "trusted" if log(n) members vouch for them, then it requires log(n) rogues, working in concert, to disrupt the network. (Of course you could still have this happen, for narrative reasons, if an entire pack went rogue.) $\endgroup$ – Galendo Apr 28 '20 at 5:09
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    $\begingroup$ TIL the phrase "Shibboleth", which sounds like a lovecraftian nightmare beast, is actually a really cool word for 'any phrase or tradition that identifies one as part of a group'. $\endgroup$ – Zibbobz Apr 28 '20 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ That works for werewolves to be sure that someone else is indeed a werewolf, but a werewolf hunter could just track down anyone using the app and test them with a silver pin (or whatever works in this world). $\endgroup$ – Robin Bennett Apr 29 '20 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ @RobinBennett - The government issued this app (according to the OP) to facilitate safe werecreature interactions. It wouldn't follow that up by tracking the account of every user who downloaded it. It might even be made a part of a government-backed tax app or something, so everyone has it, and only werecreatures have the right algorithm. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Apr 29 '20 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Why is this usage of digital signatures making me horny on main? $\endgroup$ – mazunki Apr 30 '20 at 1:52
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I think what you're looking for is a zero-knowledge proof. The werewolf would first need a secret that the other party also knows if and only if they're also a werewolf. To build upon David Hambling's answer, this could be something related to their heightened senses. For example take the colorful balls and a color-blind friend example, and translate that into smells:

  • The tester needs two object that look the same, but smell differently enough for a werewolf.
  • Tester hides these behind their back, and presents one to the werewolf-under-test, then hides again.
  • Tester presents an object again (either the same or switched, chosen randomly).
  • Werewolf-under-test tells the tester whether the object was switched or not.
  • Repeat until reasonably sure that the werewolf-under-test isn't just randomly guessing.

This has a drawback that a human can easily know that two thing will smell differently (for example, two t-shirts of the exact same brand, previously worn by two different people) without actually being able to discern the difference themselves. This could be used to trick a werewolf into revealing their identity, so there's room for improvement here.

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  • $\begingroup$ Alternatively, just ask each other "what did I have for breakfast". A human will have to be able to guess, and the answer space is sufficiently large that they likely won't be able to guess correctly, especially if you make a point of eating something unusual. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 28 '20 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ Except that asking the question potentially outs the asker as a werewolf, and this doesn't satisfy the OP's requirement that the people asking the question need not meet. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Apr 28 '20 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ If there was some mundane aspect of being a werewolf that they all deal with but humans at large aren't aware of, maybe some minor inconvenience, something highly personal etc. $\endgroup$ – user72058 Apr 29 '20 at 10:17
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    $\begingroup$ It is very common irl for people to dream of teeth falling out or to be in a space that is too small to fit you, even though many don't know it's common to human experience. Maybe werewolves have similar recurring dreams that could be used to verify them. The only humans who might know this and impersonate a werewolf are those who are a close confidante of a werewolf - a potential plot hook if you want to go that direction $\endgroup$ – user72058 Apr 29 '20 at 10:21
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe werewolves can just smell each other but it's too subtle for humans to notice? $\endgroup$ – Robin Bennett Apr 29 '20 at 15:39
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You need an anonymous online video chat platform.

This assumes that a werewolf in werewolf form can not be identified as their human form.

The werewolves transform into their werewolf form, stand in front of a neutral background and then communicate through their webcams. Anyone who shows up on that platform and looks like a human is banned - either for their own protection or because they are human agents trying to find werewolves.

Before the werewolves agree to exchange personal information or even agree ot a meeting, they should take some time to get to know each other and ask each other to perform various tasks in form of the webcam so they are not being catfished by someone just showing them a video of a werewolf.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good no-nonsense solution. Will break in a couple of years when artificial neural networks are able to transform a human video stream into a convincing werewolf one in real time. $\endgroup$ – leftaroundabout Apr 30 '20 at 13:22
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A little known fact about werewolves is that even when they are in their human form they maintain their werewolf metabolism and thus have a slightly elevated body temperature, seeming as if they are perpetually running a mild fever. Not only that but the eyes of werewolves are slightly different, as humans have trichromatic vision and wolves have dichromatic vision, the lycanthropy couldn't remove the third cone in your retina so instead it increased the range of colour each cone could percieve and thus werewolves can see infrared and this allows them to spot other werewolves as they are percieved as brighter than normal humans.

Fortunately most people don't know this, as werewolves have seen each other as slightly brighter for thousands of years and the science explaining infrared light is only recent and such this is a closely guarded secret among those who know and something that simply can't be explained by those who don't. Even doctors who treat werewolves just notice that some of their patients have a chronic fever but outside of the temperature are entirely asymptomatic, they prescribe a good sleep and perhaps a diueretic, the werewolves finish the course and feel fine thus do not return to the doctor afterwards. Those who do are minor medical oddities, perhaps written about and forgotten in some small medical journal as an uninteresting case of chronic fever with no negative symptoms.

Seeing another werewolf in a crowd or on an IR camera is proof, however sick people confuse the results so its bad to start witch hunts against potential fever patients.

However if you, hypothetically had some kind of global pandemic where people's temperatures were closely measured and any sign of a fever was cause for consequence; The whole community would risk exposure, but what are the chances of something like that happening...

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    $\begingroup$ While this is plausible, it should be noted that 98.6°F is an average. There are already humans that naturally have a higher body temperature. This could be another reason why you can't entirely trust that elevated body temperature is a sure indicator, but you could also turn it around such that these people, in your world, were werewolves all along. Of course, a simpler answer along these lines would be that they retain a heightened sense of smell in human form and can simply smell other werewolves. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 28 '20 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ "but what are the chances of something like that happening..." - about 1 in 2020. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Apr 28 '20 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew the smell is a good point and definitely a good way of confirming the visual indicator. $\endgroup$ – hamsolo474 - Reinstate Monica Apr 28 '20 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew what makes you think those are humans? ;) $\endgroup$ – Erik Apr 29 '20 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Erik, "you could also turn it around such that these people, in your world, were werewolves all along" 😉. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 29 '20 at 13:43
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If you wish to see how people from a prejudiced groip find each other, think of all the gay people that use grindr and tinder. You only find people who match what you are searching for.

Modify one of these to have a mode that can only be activated by werewolves - say, facial recognition, or pairing with a Bluetooth device that identifies the smell of a werewolf. There you have it. It will be hackeable, but exploits can be patched.

It may even be that such a thing already exists in the real world. I hear some users of grindr are bears, so the lycanthrope community may already have found a solution for your stated problem.

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps they might leave a note in their bio with a key phrase that identifies them as part of this group... A dog whistle perhaps... (+1 for the bears comment) $\endgroup$ – hamsolo474 - Reinstate Monica Apr 28 '20 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ If there's something in an app that allows the identification of a lycanthrope by smell or facial recognition, you're handing werewolf hunters an incredibly invaluable tool. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Apr 28 '20 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ @jdunlop if you need a facial recognition software to detect that a werewolf in their half-wolf, half-human form is indeed a werewolf, you are probably blind. In that case it is not a tool that gives you extra werewolf finding abilities, it is a handicap remover. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Apr 28 '20 at 20:06
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Subcultural shibboleths.

A lot of the other answers have focused on technical solutions to this problem, but I'm going to propose a solution to this problem that has been used by similar groups in real life: cultural shibboleths that, when used properly, identify a person as a member of a given subculture.

Simply put, the werewolves would form a distinct subculture, much like the LGBT or neonazi subcultures IRL, as a result of being members of a distinct group within society that tries to conceal their identities in public. They would develop their own jargon, idioms, and slang, and the correct use of these linguistic features would help mark someone as belonging to this subculture.

This might also be paired with symbols and markings that they might adopt whose meanings aren't well-known to the public and seem innocuous but would be obvious to other members of the subculture. For instance, the FBI documented certain pedophile groups using a triangular spiral as a symbol for pedophiles who molested boys, while the Anti-Defamation League has documented a wide variety of white-supremacist symbols.

Exactly what symbols werewolves might adopt would depend on your story and exactly how werewolves work, but perhaps they might adopt numerical symbols based on the number of forms they can take or symbols of animals like butterflies that symbolize metamorphosis. They might also adopt more abstract symbols that don't have any apparent connection to being a werewolf.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes: these have a huge historical record of being used by many groups in many places. Public-key cryptography and zero-knowledge proofs are a clever idea in theory, but need would very specific social contexts to have any realistic chance of working. $\endgroup$ – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Apr 29 '20 at 14:03
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3rd Party Authentication Required

What's needed:

  1. A 100% proven method of proving someone's status as a werewolf if they are standing in front of them, willing to be tested.
  2. A third party (probably other werewolves) who verifies werewolf identities, and gives ID numbers or Passwords to verified werewolves. Werewolves would have to opt in and prove their status as werewolves to use the service. A werewolf who has not verified with the third party could not be identified as a werewolf through the service. However since the O.P. has said that it's voluntary, this will be fine.
  3. The hash (cryptographic) of these numbers/passwords is stored in an online database.
  4. The database requires 2 ID's to run a request for confirmation, and it only gives a positive result if both ID's are found, otherwise, it returns a failed reply.
  5. Apps can be developed expressly for this purpose, or existing apps can be modified to add this feature to their programs. But instead of ticking a box, the werewolves would need to put in their ID numbers or passwords.
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  • $\begingroup$ This is similar to what I was originally thinking. Have been trying to think of a way around point 2, since requires that someone on the inside know at least one definite wereperson (as an initial authenticator), putting them in danger because of rule #3. $\endgroup$ – lampShadesDrifter Apr 27 '20 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ If the third party claims to be hired, trusted, regular humans running a service (while being run by werepeople) this could potentially work. Especially if the receptionist in particular is actually verifiably human. (Trustable humans must exist right?) $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Apr 28 '20 at 14:01
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As others have said, a trusted third party is needed. However, this can be done anonymously.

You appear before the trusted party and prove you're a werewolf. You are then given a private key, the public key goes on a list published by the third party. These keys simply have numbers, though, no names.

The person who you are trying to prove that you're a werewolf sends you a message, you sign it with your private key, if they can decrypt it with the public key they know you proved you have shown the third party that you're a werewolf.

Note that this means there's no master list of werewolves in case the third party's files are breached. The third party doesn't retain the key, even if their data is breached the hacker can't pretend to be a werewolf. You can also have any number of verifiers. If one quits the list of keys doesn't get updated but still works.

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Since someone is probably going to say it about my solution: everything can be hacked or bypassed given enough effort.

You use a simple test that proves you are a werewolf each time you log on if you want to use the wereperson privileges. I first thought of a blood test like people with diabetes do but a safer method is to use a werewolf-change program. Only werepersons know it is included and at some point during the log-in you can change form. Instead of a face-recognition program you have a wereperson recognition program that registers a form change and does a few simple tests to see if it is photoshopped or not (done on the server not on the login device) then you get full wereperson access. In combination with a small blood-test or other fysiological tests you would either need to hack the program or kidnap a wereperson to get access as a normal person.

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This might require some slight development, but you're not looking at off-the-shelf technology anyway.

It is axiomatic that werewolves, like other canids, recognise each other by scent, and that this scent is so far too subtle for technology to distinguish.

A werewolf can anonymously send a scent sample to a central registrar with a digital signature. The registrar validates the sample (by smell) and ensures it is unique. They can then issues an authorisation for that signature so they can use Werewolf Tinder or whatever. Thus all werewolves can get issued with logins.

Other means would require other physical forms of validation using werewolf senses which cannot be replicated by other means (vision, hearing etc).

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Here's an idea that is roughly an improved version of mjm's answer, also incorporating some ideas of using a shibboleth.

Set up a game of three card monte using three (or more!) identical baubles (balls, beads, actual cards; can be anything as long as they are visually identical), one of which has been impregnated with a distinctive aroma that only werewolves can detect. Ask the potential werewolf to pick one. Don't explain the objective. A real werewolf should pick up on one of the objects being different and always select that one. Repeat three or so times to reduce the chances of a human picking correctly out of dumb luck. If it doesn't mix the scent too much, "mix" by dumping all the baubles in a bag and shaking (eliminates any chance of visual tracking).

Before letting the potential werewolf choose, the werewolf administering the test should inspect each object to know which one is the 'target'. The tester should pick up each object and 'look' at it closely (but is really smelling it!), and possibly touch his/her hand to his/her mouth after, as if in thought (again, actually smelling the hand). This is to make it less obvious that this is a scent test. If the candidate does likewise, that's also a shibboleth.

Obviously, you'll also want to reverse roles so that the candidate can be sure that the tester is also really a werewolf.

If werewolves as a group are fairly consistent in finding certain aromas "pleasing" and others "displeasing", you can improve upon this by using multiple scents, but using one that is "good" and others that are "bad" or neutral. Ask the candidate to pick their favorite bauble. The theory is that they will pick the one with the "good" scent.


Okay, that said, this doesn't actually help the OP, who specified that the potential werewolves should be able to identify without meeting physically. However, I think it's a sufficiently useful idea that I want to post it anyway.

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  1. Even if werewolf is in human form, he/she cannot fully conceal his/her canine nature, so he/she has enhanced sense of smell. And its easy to distinguish other werewolf by sniffing. Humans cannot distinguish this smells, in best case they say "Hm, strange perfume...".

  2. Werewolf has slightly different mimic, so their facial expressions is slightly different. If you live long enough with werewolves, you can start seeing this little things, breaking masquerade and revealing werewolves in humans form, even if you are ordinary human without improved werewolf grade perception.

  3. All werewolfs can carry tamper proof token, that doesn't looks weird, be it premium membership of dog grooming saloon, badge of "meat lovers club", smarthpones of special model, tatoos, clothers and so on.

  4. Probably, they have agreements like this: "This summer we all wear "meat lovers club" badge, sunshades and dark blue clothes, this autumn we all wear leather jackets, red knitted hat and smartphones with funny dog like case, this winter we all wear black coats, red and white scarfs and hiking boots" - they change accessories and clothers to make it harder for people to record this marks and impersonate werewolves.

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Pheromones

As canines, werewolves have a superhuman sense of smell. They can smell each other, even while in human form. They will even notice when they are in an area where another werewolf was present not too long ago.

Just like with dogs, those pheromones might be most concentrated in their urine. So a werewolf who is looking to meet other werewolves would urinate in a public place, every day at the same time. Or if they are afraid of getting caught for public urination, pee in a bottle at home and spill a bit of it in public places as part of their daily routine.

Any other werewolf who enters that general area would notice that scent. They could tell how long ago the other werewolf urinated there. So they could just wait there at the usual time and approach them.

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Exploit differences in senses

Assuming that werewolves have some different senses, the (every day) experiences when sensing something could be used to determine to which group one belongs.

Think of people with a color-blindness caused by a mutation that turns the "red" photopsin into the "green" photopsin. In this case something that is bright red to normal humans will appear the same as something that is black to normal humans. Of course, such color-blind humans grow up in a world where most people are "normal", and so they will learn what colors every-day objects have (according to normal humans). But if the situation is reversed (the normal people being the rare ones), then the color-blind people will not know. In the latter case, these people may not know that strawberries and berries of the deadly nightshade have different colors.

There could be actual color-blindness tests being given to each other, if werewolves and humans have different sights. But it would also work for smells. They could specify a common object, and the other person has to answer with another object that smells similar. If you ask a couple of those, then you could determine whether that person is a werewolf or not. An alternative is to ask: "does X smell like Y?"

Note that if people are sending each other color-blindness tests, one would have to make sure that there are more than 2 solutions. Otherwise someone could just use an image manipulation program and alter the colors to see the solution.

The person who initiates the visual or smell test is not outed, because humans may also use this kind of test to find out who is a werewolf. Everyone can administer such a test. It is however possible that werewolves are better at imitating humans in these test than vice versa, like in the color-blind human example. That way humans might use this kind of test, but in reality it's doesn't work very well to detect werewolves.

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