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Paper:

TR19-163 | 16th November 2019 02:48

Approximating the Distance to Monotonicity of Boolean Functions

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Abstract:

We design a nonadaptive algorithm that, given a Boolean function $f\colon \{0,1\}^n \to \{0,1\}$ which is $\alpha$-far from monotone, makes poly$(n, 1/\alpha)$ queries and returns an estimate that, with high probability, is an $\widetilde{O}(\sqrt{n})$-approximation to the distance of $f$ to monotonicity. Furthermore, we show that for any constant $\kappa > 0,$ approximating the distance to monotonicity up to $n^{1/2 - \kappa}$-factor requires $2^{n^\kappa}$ nonadaptive queries, thereby ruling out a poly$(n, 1/\alpha)$-query nonadaptive algorithm for such approximations. This answers a question of Seshadhri (Property Testing Review, 2014) for the case of nonadaptive algorithms. Approximating the distance to a property is closely related to tolerantly testing that property. Our lower bound stands in contrast to standard (non-tolerant) testing of monotonicity that can be done nonadaptively with $\widetilde{O}(\sqrt{n} / \varepsilon^2)$ queries.

We obtain our lower bound by proving an analogous bound for erasure-resilient testers. An $\alpha$-erasure-resilient tester for a desired property gets oracle access to a function that has at most an $\alpha$ fraction of values erased. The tester has to accept (with probability at least 2/3) if the erasures can be filled in to ensure that the resulting function has the property and to reject (with probability at least 2/3) if every completion of erasures results in a function that is $\varepsilon$-far from having the property. Our method yields the same lower bounds for unateness and being a $k$-junta. These lower bounds improve exponentially on the existing lower bounds for these properties.



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