Barriers for Recent Methods in Geodesic Optimization

Authors W. Cole Franks , Philipp Reichenbach

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W. Cole Franks
  • Department of Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
Philipp Reichenbach
  • Institut für Mathematik, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany


The authors thank Jason Altschuler, Peter Bürgisser, Visu Makam, Adam Sawicki and Michael Walter for helpful discussions. Furthermore, the authors thank the anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions.

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W. Cole Franks and Philipp Reichenbach. Barriers for Recent Methods in Geodesic Optimization. In 36th Computational Complexity Conference (CCC 2021). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 200, pp. 13:1-13:54, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2021)


We study a class of optimization problems including matrix scaling, matrix balancing, multidimensional array scaling, operator scaling, and tensor scaling that arise frequently in theory and in practice. Some of these problems, such as matrix and array scaling, are convex in the Euclidean sense, but others such as operator scaling and tensor scaling are geodesically convex on a different Riemannian manifold. Trust region methods, which include box-constrained Newton’s method, are known to produce high precision solutions very quickly for matrix scaling and matrix balancing (Cohen et. al., FOCS 2017, Allen-Zhu et. al. FOCS 2017), and result in polynomial time algorithms for some geodesically convex problems like operator scaling (Garg et. al. STOC 2018, Bürgisser et. al. FOCS 2019). One is led to ask whether these guarantees also hold for multidimensional array scaling and tensor scaling. We show that this is not the case by exhibiting instances with exponential diameter bound: we construct polynomial-size instances of 3-dimensional array scaling and 3-tensor scaling whose approximate solutions all have doubly exponential condition number. Moreover, we study convex-geometric notions of complexity known as margin and gap, which are used to bound the running times of all existing optimization algorithms for such problems. We show that margin and gap are exponentially small for several problems including array scaling, tensor scaling and polynomial scaling. Our results suggest that it is impossible to prove polynomial running time bounds for tensor scaling based on diameter bounds alone. Therefore, our work motivates the search for analogues of more sophisticated algorithms, such as interior point methods, for geodesically convex optimization that do not rely on polynomial diameter bounds.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Algebraic complexity theory
  • Theory of computation → Continuous optimization
  • Mathematics of computing → Combinatorics
  • Geodesically Convex Optimization
  • Weight Margin
  • Moment Polytope
  • Diameter Bounds
  • Tensor Scaling
  • Matrix Scaling


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