[Theory seminar] Avishay Tal

March 8, 2017 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Speaker: Avishay Tal

Affiliation: IAS

Title:Time-Space Hardness of Learning Sparse Parities


How can one learn a parity function, i.e., a function of the form $f(x) = a_1 x_1 + a_2 x_2 + … + a_n x_n (mod 2)$ where a_1, …, a_n are in {0,1}, from random labeled examples? One approach is to gather O(n) random labeled examples and perform Gaussian-elimination. This requires a memory of size O(n^2) and poly(n) time. Another approach is to go over all possible 2^n parity functions and to verify them by checking O(n) random examples per each possibility. This requires a memory of size O(n), but O(2^n * n) time. In a recent work, Raz [FOCS, 2016] showed that if an algorithm has memory of size much smaller than n^2, then it has to spend exponential time in order to learn a parity function. In other words, fast learning requires a good memory. In this work, we show that even if the parity function is known to be extremely sparse, where only log(n) of the a_i’s are nonzero, then the learning task is still time-space hard. That is, we show that any algorithm with linear size memory and polynomial time fails to learn log(n)-sparse parities. Consequently, the classical tasks of learning linear-size DNF formulae, linear-size decision trees, and logarithmic-size juntas are all time-space hard. Based on joint work with Gillat Kol and Ran Raz.