Thursday, 5 September 2013

Decision Problems and Languages

As stated previously, the function \(C\) that a certain circuit family \(\{C_n\}\) computes can be thought of as corresponding to a certain algorithmic problem. There is a special and important class of problems called decision problems. These are problems with a "yes"/ "no" answer. More formally, decision problems correspond to a function \(f: \{0,1\}^n\rightarrow \{0,1\}\), where an output of \(1\) represents a "yes" answer and an output of \(0\) represents a "no" answer to the problem. A language is a set \(L\subseteq\{0,1\}^*\equiv\bigcup_{k=1}^\infty\{0,1\}^k\) consisting of bitstrings of finite length that are supposed to represent instances of a decision problem corresponding to some function \(f\) such that \(x\in L\) if and only if \(f(x)=1\). Thus, the bitstrings in a language \(L\) representing a certain problem are precisely those bitstrings that yield a "yes" answer to the problem. Therefore, sometimes the terms language and problem are used interchangeably.

 A circuit family \(\{C_n\}\) computing the function \(C\) is said to recognize or decide a language \(L\) if for every \(x\in L\), \(C(x)=1\), and for every \(x\not\in L\), \(C(x)=0\). For the case of a randomized circuit family \(\{C_n\}\), we say that \(\{C_n\}\) recognizes or decides a language \(L\) if for every \(x\in L\), \(C(x)=1\) with probability greater than  \(1/2\), and for every \(x\not\in L\), \(C(x)=0\) with probability less than \(1/2\). The probability mentioned here is taken over the sequence of random bits, and the \(1/2\) success rate can be arbitrarily changed to any probability of the form \(1/2 + \epsilon\), where \(\epsilon\) is a positive real number. The reason for this arbitrary success rate being greater than \(1/2\) is  because the computation can be repeated numerous times in order to increase or decrease the confidence of a certain bitstring being in a particular language. Decision problems will play a role in quantifying the resources needed to carry out various computational tasks, which will be described in the next section on computational complexity.

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