Lower Bounds for Choiceless Polynomial Time via Symmetric XOR-Circuits

Author Benedikt Pago

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Benedikt Pago
  • Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science, RWTH Aachen University, Germany


I thank Daniel Wiebking for his group-theoretic help.

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Benedikt Pago. Lower Bounds for Choiceless Polynomial Time via Symmetric XOR-Circuits. In 48th International Symposium on Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science (MFCS 2023). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 272, pp. 73:1-73:15, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2023)


Choiceless Polynomial Time (CPT) is one of the few remaining candidate logics for capturing Ptime. In this paper, we make progress towards separating CPT from polynomial time by firstly establishing a connection between the expressive power of CPT and the existence of certain symmetric circuit families, and secondly, proving lower bounds against these circuits. We focus on the isomorphism problem of unordered Cai-Fürer-Immerman-graphs (the CFI-query) as a potential candidate for separating CPT from Ptime. Results by Dawar, Richerby and Rossman, and subsequently by Pakusa, Schalthöfer and Selman show that the CFI-query is CPT-definable on linearly ordered and preordered base graphs with small colour classes. We define a class of CPT-algorithms, that we call "CFI-symmetric algorithms", which generalises all the known ones, and show that such algorithms can only define the CFI-query on a given class of base graphs if there exists a family of symmetric XOR-circuits with certain properties. These properties include that the circuits have the same symmetries as the base graphs, are of polynomial size, and satisfy certain fan-in restrictions. Then we prove that such circuits with slightly strengthened requirements (i.e. stronger symmetry and fan-in and fan-out restrictions) do not exist for the n-dimensional hypercubes as base graphs. This almost separates the CFI-symmetric algorithms from Ptime - up to the gap that remains between the circuits whose existence we can currently disprove and the circuits whose existence is necessary for the definability of the CFI-query by a CFI-symmetric algorithm.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Finite Model Theory
  • logic in computer science
  • finite model theory
  • descriptive complexity
  • symmetric computation
  • symmetric circuits
  • graph isomorphism


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