Lower bounds for testing graphical models: colorings and antiferromagnetic Ising models


Ivona Bezáková, Antonio Blanca, Zongchen Chen, Daniel Štefankovič, Eric Vigoda ;
Proceedings of the Thirty-Second Conference on Learning Theory, PMLR 99:283-298, 2019.


We study the identity testing problem in the context of spin systems or undirected graphical models, where it takes the following form: given the parameter specification of the model $M$ and a sampling oracle for the distribution $\mu_{M^*}$ of an unknown model $M^*$, can we efficiently determine if the two models $M$ and $M^*$ are the same? We consider identity testing for both soft-constraint and hard-constraint systems. In particular, we prove hardness results in two prototypical cases, the \emph{Ising model} and \emph{proper colorings}, and explore whether identity testing is easier than structure learning. For the ferromagnetic (attractive) Ising model, Daskalasis et al. (2018) presented a polynomial time algorithm for identity testing. We prove hardness results in the antiferromagnetic (repulsive) setting in the same regime of parameters where structure learning is known to require a super-polynomial number of samples. Specifically, for $n$-vertex graphs of maximum degree $d$, we prove that if $|\beta| d = \omega(\log{n})$ (where $\beta$ is the inverse temperature parameter), then there is no identity testing algorithm for the antiferromagnetic Ising model that runs in polynomial time unless $RP\!=\!NP$. We also establish computational lower bounds for a broader set of parameters under the (randomized) exponential time hypothesis. In our proofs, we use random graphs as gadgets; this is inspired by similar constructions in seminal works on the hardness of approximate counting. In the hard-constraint setting, we present hardness results for identity testing for proper colorings. Our results are based on the presumed hardness of \textsc{#BIS}, the problem of (approximately) counting independent sets in bipartite graphs. In particular, we prove that identity testing for colorings is hard in the same range of parameters where structure learning is known to be hard, which in turn matches the parameter regime for NP-hardness of the corresponding decision problem.

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