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TR17-013 | 23rd January 2017 05:43

On polynomial approximations over $\mathbb{Z}/2^k\mathbb{Z}$



We study approximation of Boolean functions by low-degree polynomials over the ring $\mathbb{Z}/2^k\mathbb{Z}$. More precisely, given a Boolean function F$:\{0,1\}^n \rightarrow \{0,1\}$, define its $k$-lift to be F$_k:\{0,1\}^n \rightarrow \{0,2^{k-1}\}$ by $F_k(x) = 2^{k-F(x)}$ (mod $2^k$). We consider the fractional agreement (which we refer to as $\gamma_{d,k}(F)$) of $F_k$ with degree $d$ polynomials from $\mathbb{Z}/2^k\mathbb{Z}[x_1,\ldots,x_n]$. Our results are the following:
- Increasing $k$ can help: We observe that as $k$ increases, $\gamma_{d,k}(F)$ cannot decrease. We give two kinds of examples where $\gamma_{d,k}(F)$ actually increases. The first is an infinite family of functions $F$ such that $\gamma_{2d,2}(F) - \gamma_{3d-1,1}(F) \geq \Omega(1)$. The second is an infinite family of functions $F$ such that $\gamma_{d,1}(F)\leq\frac{1}{2}+o(1)$ --- as small as possible --- but $\gamma_{d,3}(F) \geq \frac{1}{2}+\Omega(1)$.
- Increasing $k$ doesn't always help: Adapting a proof of Green [Comput. Complexity, 9(1):16--38, 2000], we show that irrespective of the value of $k$, the Majority function Maj$_n$ satisfies $\gamma_{d,k}($Maj$_n) \leq \frac{1}{2}+\frac{O(d)}{\sqrt{n}}$. In other words, polynomials over $\mathbb{Z}/2^k\mathbb{Z}$ for large $k$ do not approximate the majority function any better than polynomials over $\mathbb{Z}/2\mathbb{Z}$.

We observe that the model we study subsumes the model of non-classical polynomials in the sense that proving bounds in our model implies bounds on the agreement of non-classical polynomials with Boolean functions. In particular, our results answer questions raised by Bhowmick and Lovett [In Proc. 30th Computational Complexity Conf., pages 72–-87, 2015] that ask whether non-classical polynomials approximate Boolean functions better than classical polynomials of the same degree.

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