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TR19-003 | 2nd January 2019 01:13

Near-Optimal Lower Bounds on the Threshold Degree and Sign-Rank of AC^0



The threshold degree of a Boolean function $f\colon\{0,1\}^n\to\{0,1\}$ is the minimum degree of a real polynomial $p$ that represents $f$ in sign: $\mathrm{sgn}\; p(x)=(-1)^{f(x)}.$ A related notion is sign-rank, defined for a Boolean matrix $F=[F_{ij}]$ as the minimum rank of a real matrix $M$ with $\mathrm{sgn}\; M_{ij}=(-1)^{F_{ij}}$. Determining the maximum threshold degree and sign-rank achievable by constant-depth circuits ($\text{AC}^{0}$) is a well-known and extensively studied open problem, with complexity-theoretic and algorithmic applications.

We give an essentially optimal solution to this problem. For any $\epsilon>0,$ we construct an $\text{AC}^{0}$ circuit in $n$ variables that has threshold degree $\Omega(n^{1-\epsilon})$ and sign-rank $\exp(\Omega(n^{1-\epsilon})),$ improving on the previous best lower bounds of $\Omega(\sqrt{n})$ and $\exp(\tilde{\Omega}(\sqrt{n}))$, respectively. Our results subsume all previous lower bounds on the threshold degree and sign-rank of $\text{AC}^{0}$ circuits of any given depth, with a strict improvement starting at depth $4$. As a corollary, we also obtain near-optimal bounds on the discrepancy, threshold weight, and threshold density of $\text{AC}^{0}$, strictly subsuming previous work on these quantities. Our work gives some of the strongest lower bounds to date on the communication complexity of $\text{AC}^{0}$.

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