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Publication# The One-Way Communication Complexity of Submodular Maximization with Applications to Streaming and Robustness

Abstract

We consider the classical problem of maximizing a monotone submodular function subject to a cardinality constraint, which, due to its numerous applications, has recently been studied in various computational models. We consider a clean multi-player model that lies between the offline and streaming model, and study it under the aspect of one-way communication complexity. Our model captures the streaming setting (by considering a large number of players), and, in addition, two player approximation results for it translate into the robust setting. We present tight one-way communication complexity results for our model, which, due to the above-mentioned connections, have multiple implications in the data stream and robust setting. Even for just two players, a prior information-theoretic hardness result implies that no approximation factor above 1/2 can be achieved in our model, if only queries to feasible sets, i.e., sets respecting the cardinality constraint, are allowed. We show that the possibility of querying infeasible sets can actually be exploited to beat this bound, by presenting a tight 2/3-approximation taking exponential time, and an efficient 0.514-approximation. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first example where querying a submodular function on infeasible sets leads to provably better results. Through the above-mentioned link to the robust setting, both of these algorithms improve on the current state-of-the-art for robust submodular maximization, showing that approximation factors beyond 1/2 are possible. Moreover, exploiting the link of our model to streaming, we settle the approximability for streaming algorithms by presenting a tight 1/2 + epsilon hardness result, based on the construction of a new family of coverage functions. This improves on a prior 1 - 1/e + epsilon hardness and matches, up to an arbitrarily small margin, the best known approximation algorithm.

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In computer science and operations research, approximation algorithms are efficient algorithms that find approximate solutions to optimization problems (in particular NP-hard problems) with provable guarantees on the distance of the returned solution to the optimal one. Approximation algorithms naturally arise in the field of theoretical computer science as a consequence of the widely believed P ≠ NP conjecture. Under this conjecture, a wide class of optimization problems cannot be solved exactly in polynomial time.

Submodular set function

In mathematics, a submodular set function (also known as a submodular function) is a set function whose value, informally, has the property that the difference in the incremental value of the function that a single element makes when added to an input set decreases as the size of the input set increases. Submodular functions have a natural diminishing returns property which makes them suitable for many applications, including approximation algorithms, game theory (as functions modeling user preferences) and electrical networks.

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In computer science, the computational complexity or simply complexity of an algorithm is the amount of resources required to run it. Particular focus is given to computation time (generally measured by the number of needed elementary operations) and memory storage requirements. The complexity of a problem is the complexity of the best algorithms that allow solving the problem. The study of the complexity of explicitly given algorithms is called analysis of algorithms, while the study of the complexity of problems is called computational complexity theory.

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