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Revision #1 to TR12-067 | 18th April 2013 07:56

On the Complexity of Trial and Error

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Revision #1
Authors: Xiaohui Bei, Ning Chen, Shengyu Zhang
Accepted on: 18th April 2013 07:56
Downloads: 752
Keywords: 


Abstract:

Motivated by certain applications from physics, biochemistry, economics, and computer science in which the objects under investigation are unknown or not directly accessible because of various limitations, we propose a trial-and-error model to examine search problems in which inputs are unknown. More specifically, we consider constraint satisfaction problems $\bigwedge_i C_i$, where the constraints $C_i$ are hidden, and the goal is to find a solution satisfying all constraints. We can adaptively propose a candidate solution (i.e., trial), and there is a verification oracle that either confirms that it is a valid solution, or returns the index i of a violated constraint (i.e., error), with the exact content of $C_i$ still hidden.

We studied the time and trial complexities of a number of natural CSPs, summarized as follows. On one hand, despite the seemingly very little information provided by the oracle, efficient algorithms do exist for Nash, Core, Stable Matching, and SAT problems, whose unknown-input versions are shown to be as hard as the corresponding known-input versions up to a factor of polynomial. The techniques employed vary considerably, including, e.g., order theory and the ellipsoid method with a strong separation oracle.

On the other hand, there are problems whose complexities are substantially increased in the unknown-input model. In particular, no time-efficient algorithms exist for Graph Isomorphism and Group Isomorphism (unless PH collapses or P = NP). The proofs use quite nonstandard reductions, in which an efficient simulator is carefully designed to simulate a desirable but computationally unaffordable oracle.

Our model investigates the value of input information, and our results demonstrate that the lack of input information can introduce various levels of extra difficulty. The model accommodates a wide range of combinatorial and algebraic structures, and exhibits intimate connections with (and hopefully can also serve as a useful supplement to) certain existing learning and complexity theories.


Paper:

TR12-067 | 6th May 2012 08:00

On the Complexity of Trial and Error





TR12-067
Authors: Xiaohui Bei, Ning Chen, Shengyu Zhang
Publication: 25th May 2012 13:05
Downloads: 1347
Keywords: 


Abstract:

Motivated by certain applications from physics, biochemistry, economics, and computer science in which the objects under investigation are unknown or not directly accessible because of various limitations, we propose a trial-and-error model to examine search problems with unknown inputs. Given a search problem with a hidden input, we are asked to find a valid solution. The way to find such a solution is to propose candidate solutions, i.e., trials, and, using observed violations, i.e., errors, to prepare future proposals. In accordance with our motivating applications, we consider the fairly broad class of constraint satisfaction problems, and assume that errors are signaled by a verification oracle in the format of the index of a violated constraint (with the exact content of the constraint still hidden). The objective is to design time- and/or trial-efficient algorithms that will find a valid solution or alternatively, to show that the problem is intrinsically hard.

Our discoveries can be summarized as follows. On one hand, despite the seemingly very little information provided by the verification oracle, efficient algorithms do exist for a number of important problems. For the Nash, Core, Stable Matching, and SAT problems, the unknown-input versions are as hard as the corresponding known-input versions, up to a factor of polynomial. We further conduct a closer study of the latter two problems and give almost tight bounds on their trial complexities. The techniques employed to prove these results vary considerably, including, e.g., order theory and the ellipsoid method with a strong separation oracle.

On the other hand, there are problems whose complexities are substantially increased in the unknown-input model. For Graph Isomorphism and Group Isomorphism, in particular, although there are trial-efficient algorithms, no time-efficient algorithms exist (unless PH collapses and P = NP, respectively). These results also imply lower bounds on the tradeoff between time and trial complexities. The proofs use quite nonstandard reductions, in which an efficient simulator is carefully designed to simulate a desirable but computationally unaffordable oracle.

Our model investigates the value of information, and our results demonstrate that the lack of input information can introduce various levels of extra difficulty. The model accommodates a wide range of combinatorial and algebraic structures, and exhibits intimate connections with (and we hope can also serve as a useful supplement to) certain existing learning and complexity theories.



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