The Orthogonal Vectors Conjecture for Branching Programs and Formulas

Authors Daniel M. Kane, Richard Ryan Williams

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Daniel M. Kane
  • CSE and Mathematics, UC San Diego, La Jolla CA, USA
Richard Ryan Williams
  • EECS and CSAIL, MIT, 32 Vassar St., Cambridge MA, USA

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Daniel M. Kane and Richard Ryan Williams. The Orthogonal Vectors Conjecture for Branching Programs and Formulas. In 10th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2019). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 124, pp. 48:1-48:15, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2019)


In the Orthogonal Vectors (OV) problem, we wish to determine if there is an orthogonal pair of vectors among n Boolean vectors in d dimensions. The OV Conjecture (OVC) posits that OV requires n^{2-o(1)} time to solve, for all d=omega(log n). Assuming the OVC, optimal time lower bounds have been proved for many prominent problems in P, such as Edit Distance, Frechet Distance, Longest Common Subsequence, and approximating the diameter of a graph. We prove that OVC is true in several computational models of interest: - For all sufficiently large n and d, OV for n vectors in {0,1}^d has branching program complexity Theta~(n * min(n,2^d)). In particular, the lower and upper bounds match up to polylog factors. - OV has Boolean formula complexity Theta~(n * min(n,2^d)), over all complete bases of O(1) fan-in. - OV requires Theta~(n * min(n,2^d)) wires, in formulas comprised of gates computing arbitrary symmetric functions of unbounded fan-in. Our lower bounds basically match the best known (quadratic) lower bounds for any explicit function in those models. Analogous lower bounds hold for many related problems shown to be hard under OVC, such as Batch Partial Match, Batch Subset Queries, and Batch Hamming Nearest Neighbors, all of which have very succinct reductions to OV. The proofs use a certain kind of input restriction that is different from typical random restrictions where variables are assigned independently. We give a sense in which independent random restrictions cannot be used to show hardness, in that OVC is false in the "average case" even for AC^0 formulas: For all p in (0,1) there is a delta_p > 0 such that for every n and d, OV instances with input bits independently set to 1 with probability p (and 0 otherwise) can be solved with AC^0 formulas of O(n^{2-delta_p}) size, on all but a o_n(1) fraction of instances. Moreover, lim_{p - > 1}delta_p = 1.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Circuit complexity
  • fine-grained complexity
  • orthogonal vectors
  • branching programs
  • symmetric functions
  • Boolean formulas


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