Pairwise Independent Random Walks Can Be Slightly Unbounded

Author Shyam Narayanan

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Shyam Narayanan
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA


I would like to thank Prof. Jelani Nelson for advising this work, as well as for problem suggestions, forwarding me many papers from the literature, and providing helpful feedback on my writeup.

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Shyam Narayanan. Pairwise Independent Random Walks Can Be Slightly Unbounded. In Approximation, Randomization, and Combinatorial Optimization. Algorithms and Techniques (APPROX/RANDOM 2019). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 145, pp. 63:1-63:19, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2019)


A family of problems that have been studied in the context of various streaming algorithms are generalizations of the fact that the expected maximum distance of a 4-wise independent random walk on a line over n steps is O(sqrt{n}). For small values of k, there exist k-wise independent random walks that can be stored in much less space than storing n random bits, so these properties are often useful for lowering space bounds. In this paper, we show that for all of these examples, 4-wise independence is required by demonstrating a pairwise independent random walk with steps uniform in +/- 1 and expected maximum distance Omega(sqrt{n} lg n) from the origin. We also show that this bound is tight for the first and second moment, i.e. the expected maximum square distance of a 2-wise independent random walk is always O(n lg^2 n). Also, for any even k >= 4, we show that the kth moment of the maximum distance of any k-wise independent random walk is O(n^{k/2}). The previous two results generalize to random walks tracking insertion-only streams, and provide higher moment bounds than currently known. We also prove a generalization of Kolmogorov’s maximal inequality by showing an asymptotically equivalent statement that requires only 4-wise independent random variables with bounded second moments, which also generalizes a result of Błasiok.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Random walks and Markov chains
  • Mathematics of computing → Probabilistic algorithms
  • k-wise Independence
  • Random Walks
  • Moments
  • Chaining


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