On the Power of Border Width-2 ABPs over Fields of Characteristic 2

Authors Pranjal Dutta, Christian Ikenmeyer, Balagopal Komarath, Harshil Mittal, Saraswati Girish Nanoti, Dhara Thakkar

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Pranjal Dutta
  • National University of Singapore, Singapore
Christian Ikenmeyer
  • University of Warwick, UK
Balagopal Komarath
  • Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, India
Harshil Mittal
  • Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, India
Saraswati Girish Nanoti
  • Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, India
Dhara Thakkar
  • Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, India

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Pranjal Dutta, Christian Ikenmeyer, Balagopal Komarath, Harshil Mittal, Saraswati Girish Nanoti, and Dhara Thakkar. On the Power of Border Width-2 ABPs over Fields of Characteristic 2. In 41st International Symposium on Theoretical Aspects of Computer Science (STACS 2024). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 289, pp. 31:1-31:16, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2024)


The celebrated result by Ben-Or and Cleve [SICOMP92] showed that algebraic formulas are polynomially equivalent to width-3 algebraic branching programs (ABP) for computing polynomials. i.e., VF = VBP₃. Further, there are simple polynomials, such as ∑_{i = 1}⁸ x_i y_i, that cannot be computed by width-2 ABPs [Allender and Wang, CC16]. Bringmann, Ikenmeyer and Zuiddam, [JACM18], on the other hand, studied these questions in the setting of approximate (i.e., border complexity) computation, and showed the universality of border width-2 ABPs, over fields of characteristic ≠ 2. In particular, they showed that polynomials that can be approximated by formulas can also be approximated (with only a polynomial blowup in size) by width-2 ABPs, i.e., VF ̅ = VBP₂ ̅. The power of border width-2 algebraic branching programs when the characteristic of the field is 2 was left open. In this paper, we show that width-2 ABPs can approximate every polynomial irrespective of the field characteristic. We show that any polynomial f with 𝓁 monomials and with at most t odd-power indeterminates per monomial can be approximated by 𝒪(𝓁⋅ (deg(f)+2^t))-size width-2 ABPs. Since 𝓁 and t are finite, this proves universality of border width-2 ABPs. For univariate polynomials, we improve this upper-bound from O(deg(f)²) to O(deg(f)). Moreover, we show that, if a polynomial f can be approximated by small formulas, then the polynomial f^d, for some small power d, can be approximated by small width-2 ABPs. Therefore, even over fields of characteristic two, border width-2 ABPs are a reasonably powerful computational model. Our construction works over any field.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Algebraic complexity theory
  • Algebraic branching programs
  • border complexity
  • characteristic 2


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