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What information and usefulness does knowing the consensus number of a shared object give me?

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You probably cannot do much better than quote the abstract of Herlihy's original paper:

A wait-free implementation of a concurrent data object is one that guarantees that any process can complete any operation in a finite number of steps, regardless of the execution speeds of the other processes. The problem of constructing a wait-free implementation of one data object from another lies at the heart of much recent work in concurrent algorithms, concurrent data structures, and multiprocessor architectures. First, we introduce a simple and general technique, based on reduction to a consensus protocol, for proving statements of the form, “there is no wait-free implementation of X by Y.” We derive a hierarchy of objects such that no object at one level has a wait-free implementation in terms of objects at lower levels. In particular, we show that atomic read/write registers, which have been the focus of much recent attention, are at the bottom of the hierarchy: they cannot be used to construct wait-free implementations of many simple and familiar data types. Moreover, classical synchronization primitives such as test&set and fetch&add, while more powerful than read and write, are also computationally weak, as are the standard message-passing primitives. Second, nevertheless, we show that there do exist simple universal objects from which one can construct a wait-free implementation of any sequential object.

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