Parity vs. AC0 with Simple Quantum Preprocessing

Author Joseph Slote

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Joseph Slote
  • Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA


We are grateful to Chris Umans and Thomas Vidick for numerous valuable discussions and for the opportunity to share this work with Henry Yuen and the quantum group at Columbia University in the fall of 2022. We are also grateful to Atul Singh Arora, discussions with whom inspired this project. Finally we thank the anonymous ITCS 2024 reviewers for their generous and meticulous feedback on an earlier draft.

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Joseph Slote. Parity vs. AC0 with Simple Quantum Preprocessing. In 15th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2024). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 287, pp. 92:1-92:21, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2024)


A recent line of work [Bravyi et al., 2018; Watts et al., 2019; Grier and Schaeffer, 2020; Bravyi et al., 2020; Watts and Parham, 2023] has shown the unconditional advantage of constant-depth quantum computation, or QNC⁰, over NC⁰, AC⁰, and related models of classical computation. Problems exhibiting this advantage include search and sampling tasks related to the parity function, and it is natural to ask whether QNC⁰ can be used to help compute parity itself. Namely, we study AC⁰∘QNC⁰ - a hybrid circuit model where AC⁰ operates on measurement outcomes of a QNC⁰ circuit - and we ask whether Par ∈ AC⁰∘QNC⁰. We believe the answer is negative. In fact, we conjecture AC⁰∘QNC⁰ cannot even achieve Ω(1) correlation with parity. As evidence for this conjecture, we prove: - When the QNC⁰ circuit is ancilla-free, this model can achieve only negligible correlation with parity, even when AC⁰ is replaced with any function having LMN-like decay in its Fourier spectrum. - For the general (non-ancilla-free) case, we show via a connection to nonlocal games that the conjecture holds for any class of postprocessing functions that has approximate degree o(n) and is closed under restrictions. Moreover, this is true even when the QNC⁰ circuit is given arbitrary quantum advice. By known results [Bun et al., 2019], this confirms the conjecture for linear-size AC⁰ circuits. - Another approach to proving the conjecture is to show a switching lemma for AC⁰∘QNC⁰. Towards this goal, we study the effect of quantum preprocessing on the decision tree complexity of Boolean functions. We find that from the point of view of decision tree complexity, nonlocal channels are no better than randomness: a Boolean function f precomposed with an n-party nonlocal channel is together equal to a randomized decision tree with worst-case depth at most DT_depth[f]. Taken together, our results suggest that while QNC⁰ is surprisingly powerful for search and sampling tasks, that power is "locked away" in the global correlations of its output, inaccessible to simple classical computation for solving decision problems.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Quantum computation theory
  • Theory of computation → Circuit complexity
  • QNC0
  • AC0
  • Nonlocal games
  • k-wise indistinguishability
  • approximate degree
  • switching lemma
  • Fourier concentration


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