Probability, Nondeterminism and Concurrency: Two Denotational Models for Probabilistic Computation

Daniele Varacca

November 2003


Nondeterminism is modelled in domain theory by the notion of a powerdomain, while probability is modelled by that of the probabilistic powerdomain. Some problems arise when we want to combine them in order to model computation in which both nondeterminism and probability are present. In particular there is no categorical distributive law between them. We introduce the powerdomain of indexed valuations which modifies the usual probabilistic powerdomain to take more detailed account of where probabilistic choices are made. We show the existence of a distributive law between the powerdomain of indexed valuations and the nondeterministic powerdomain. By means of an equational theory we give an alternative characterisation of indexed valuations and the distributive law. We study the relation between valuations and indexed valuations. Finally we use indexed valuations to give a semantics to a programming language. This semantics reveals the computational intuition lying behind the mathematics.

In the second part of the thesis we provide an operational reading of continuous valuations on certain domains (the distributive concrete domains of Kahn and Plotkin) through the model of probabilistic event structures. Event structures are a model for concurrent computation that account for causal relations between events. We propose a way of adding probabilities to confusion free event structures, defining the notion of probabilistic event structure. This leads to various ideas of a run for probabilistic event structures. We show a confluence theorem for such runs. Configurations of a confusion free event structure form a distributive concrete domain. We give a representation theorem which characterises completely the powerdomain of valuations of such concrete domains in terms of probabilistic event structures.

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