TR18-027 Authors: Jaroslaw Blasiok, Venkatesan Guruswami, Preetum Nakkiran, Atri Rudra, Madhu Sudan

Publication: 8th February 2018 14:50

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Ar\i kan's exciting discovery of polar codes has provided an altogether new way to efficiently achieve Shannon capacity. Given a (constant-sized) invertible matrix $M$, a family of polar codes can be associated with this matrix and its ability to approach capacity follows from the $\textit{polarization}$ of an associated $[0,1]$-bounded martingale, namely its convergence in the limit to either $0$ or $1$ with probability $1$. Ar\i kan showed appropriate polarization of the martingale associated with the matrix $G_2 = \begin{pmatrix} 1 & 0 \\ 1 & 1 \end{pmatrix}$ to get capacity achieving codes. His analysis was later extended to all matrices $M$ which satisfy an obvious necessary condition for polarization.

While Ar\i kan's theorem does not guarantee that the codes achieve capacity at small blocklengths, it turns out that a "strong" analysis of the polarization of the underlying martingale would lead to such constructions. Indeed for the martingale associated with $G_2$ such a strong polarization was shown in two independent works ([Guruswami and Xia, IEEE IT '15] and [Hassani et al., IEEE IT '14]), thereby resolving a major theoretical challenge associated with the efficient attainment of Shannon capacity.

In this work we extend the result above to cover martingales associated with all matrices that satisfy the necessary condition for (weak) polarization. In addition to being vastly more general, our proofs of strong polarization are (in our view) also much simpler and modular. Key to our proof is a notion of $\textit{local polarization}$ that only depends on the evolution of the martingale in a single time step. We show that local polarization always implies strong polarization. We then apply relatively simple reasoning about conditional entropies to prove local polarization in very general settings. Specifically, our result shows strong polarization over all prime fields and leads to efficient capacity-achieving source codes for compressing arbitrary i.i.d. sources, and capacity-achieving channel codes for arbitrary symmetric memoryless channels.