Journal of the ACM (JACM)

Latest Articles

Near-Optimal Regret Bounds for Thompson Sampling

Thompson Sampling (TS) is one of the oldest heuristics for multiarmed bandit problems. It is a randomized algorithm based on Bayesian ideas and has recently generated significant interest after several studies demonstrated that it has favorable empirical performance compared to the state-of-the-art methods. In this article, a novel and almost tight... (more)

Streaming Tree Transducers

The theory of tree transducers provides a foundation for understanding expressiveness and complexity of analysis problems for specification languages for transforming hierarchically structured data such as XML documents. We introduce streaming tree transducers as an analyzable, executable, and expressive model for transforming unranked ordered... (more)

Separations in Query Complexity Based on Pointer Functions

In 1986, Saks and Wigderson conjectured that the largest separation between deterministic and zero-error randomized query complexity for a total... (more)

Qualitative Determinacy and Decidability of Stochastic Games with Signals

We consider two-person zero-sum stochastic games with signals, a standard model of stochastic games with imperfect information. The only source of... (more)

The Complexity of Mean-Payoff Pushdown Games

Two-player games on graphs are central in many problems in formal verification and program analysis, such as synthesis and verification of open systems. In this work, we consider solving recursive game graphs (or pushdown game graphs) that model the control flow of sequential programs with recursion. While pushdown games have been studied before... (more)

An Average-Case Depth Hierarchy Theorem for Boolean Circuits

We prove an average-case depth hierarchy theorem for Boolean circuits over the standard basis of AND, OR, and NOT gates. Our hierarchy theorem says... (more)


Important Note on P/NP: Some submissions purport to solve a long-standing open problem in complexity theory, such as the P/NP problem. Many of these turn out to be mistaken, and such submissions tax JACM volunteer editors and reviewers. JACM remains open to the possibility of eventual resolution of P/NP and related questions, and continues to welcome submissions on the subject. However, to mitigate the burden of repeated resubmissions due to incremental corrections of errors identified during editorial review, no author may submit more than one such paper to JACM, ACM Trans. on Algorithms, or ACM Trans. on Computation in any 24-month period, except by invitation of the Editor-in-Chief. This applies to resubmissions of previously rejected manuscripts. Please consider this policy before submitting a such a paper.

About JACM

The Journal of the ACM (JACM) provides coverage of the most significant work on principles of computer science, broadly construed. The scope of research we cover encompasses contributions of lasting value to any area of computer science. To be accepted, a paper must be judged to be truly outstanding in its field.  JACM is interested  in work in core computer science and at the boundaries, both the boundaries of subdisciplines of computer science and the boundaries between computer science and other fields.

read more
Forthcoming Articles
The matching polytope has exponential extension complexity

A popular method in combinatorial optimization is to express polytopes P, which may potentially have exponentially many facets, as solutions of linear programs that use few extra variables to reduce the number of constraints down to a polynomial. After two decades of standstill, recent years have brought amazing progress in showing lower bounds for the so called extension complexity, which for a polytope P denotes the smallest number of inequalities necessary to describe a higher dimensional polytope Q that can be linearly projected on P. However, the central question in this field remained wide open: can the perfect matching polytope be written as an LP with polynomially many constraints? We answer this question negatively. In fact, the extension complexity of the perfect matching polytope in a complete n-node graph is 2^Omega(n). By a known reduction this also improves the lower bound on the extension complexity for the TSP polytope from 2^Omega(n^1/2) to 2^Omega(n).

Fair Enough: Guaranteeing Approximate Maximin Shares

We consider the problem of fairly allocating indivisible goods, focusing on a recently-introduced notion of fairness called maximin share guarantee: Each player's value for his allocation should be at least as high as what he can guarantee by dividing the items into as many bundles as there are players and receiving his least desirable bundle. Assuming additive valuation functions, we show that such allocations may not exist, but allocations guaranteeing each player 2/3 of the above value always exist, and can be computed in polynomial time when the number of players is constant. These theoretical results have direct practical implications.

Polynomial Time Corresponds to Solutions of Polynomial Ordinary Differential Equations of Polynomial Length

The outcomes of this paper are twofold. Implicit Complexity: We provide an implicit characterization of polynomial time computation in terms of ordinary differential equations: we characterize the class PTIME of languages computable in polynomial time in terms of differential equations with polynomial right-hand side. This result gives a purely continuous elegant and simple characterization of PTIME. We believe it is the first time complexity classes are characterized using only ordinary differential equations. Our characterization extends to functions computable in polynomial time over the reals in the sense of computable analysis. Our results may provide a new perspective on classical complexity, by giving a way to define complexity classes, like PTIME, in a very simple way, without any reference to a notion of (discrete) machine. This may also provide ways to state classical questions about computational complexity via ordinary differential equations. Continuous-Time Models of Computation. Our results can also be interpreted in terms of analog computers or analog models of computation: As a side effect, we get that the 1941 General Purpose Analog Computer (GPAC) of Claude Shannon is provably equivalent to Turing machines both in terms of computability and complexity, a fact that has never been established before. This result provides arguments in favour of a generalised form of the Church-Turing Hypothesis, which states that any physically realistic (macroscopic) computer is equivalent to Turing machines both in terms of computability and complexity.

Proving the Incompatibility of Efficiency and Strategyproofness via SMT Solving

Two important requirements when aggregating the preferences of multiple agents are that the outcome should be economically efficient and the aggregation mechanism should not be manipulable. In this paper, we provide a computer-aided proof of a sweeping impossibility using these two conditions for randomized aggregation mechanisms. More precisely, we show that every efficient aggregation mechanism can be manipulated for all expected utility representations of the agents' preferences. This settles an open problem and strengthens a number of existing theorems, including statements that were shown within the special domain of assignment. Our proof is obtained by formulating the claim as a satisfiability problem over predicates from real-valued arithmetic, which is then checked using an SMT (satisfiability modulo theories) solver. In order to verify the correctness of the result, a minimal unsatisfiable set of constraints returned by the SMT solver was then translated back into a proof in higher-order logic, which was automatically verified by an interactive theorem prover. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first application of SMT solvers in computational social choice.

Which Is the Fairest (Rent Division) of Them All?

What is a fair way to assign rooms to several housemates, and divide the rent between them? This is not just a theoretical question: many people have used the Spliddit website to obtain envy-free solutions to rent division instances. But envy freeness, in and of itself, is insufficient to guarantee outcomes that people view as intuitive and acceptable. We therefore focus on solutions that optimize a criterion of social justice, subject to the envy freeness constraint, in order to pinpoint the "fairest" solutions. We develop a general algorithmic framework that enables the computation of such solutions in polynomial time. We then study the relations between natural optimization objectives, and identify the maximin solution, which maximizes the minimum utility subject to envy freeness, as the most attractive. We demonstrate, in theory and using experiments on real data from Spliddit, that the maximin solution gives rise to significant gains in terms of our optimization objectives. Finally, a user study with Spliddit users as subjects demonstrates that people find the maximin solution to be significantly fairer than arbitrary envy-free solutions; this user study is unprecedented in that it asks people about their real-world rent division instances. Based on these results, the maximin solution has been deployed on Spliddit since April 2015.

Communication Steps for Parallel Query Processing

We study the problem of computing conjunctive queries over large databases on parallel architectures without shared storage. Using the structure of such a query q and the skew in the data, we study tradeoffs between the number of processors, the number of rounds of communication, and the per-processor load -- the number of bits each processor can send or can receive in a single round -- that are required to compute q. Since each processor must store its received bits, the load is at most the number of bits of storage per processor. When the data is free of skew, we obtain essentially tight upper and lower bounds for one round algorithms and we show how the bounds degrade when there is skew in the data. In the case of skewed data, we show how to improve the algorithms when approximate degrees of the (necessarily small number of) heavy-hitter elements are available, obtaining essentially optimal algorithms for queries such as skewed simple joins and skewed triangle join queries. For queries that we identify as tree-like, we also prove nearly matching upper and lower bounds for multi-round algorithms for a natural class of skew-free databases. One consequence of these latter lower bounds is that for any µ>0, using p processors to compute the connected components of a graph, or to output the path, if any, between a specified pair of vertices of a graph with m edges and per-processor load that is O(m/p^(1-µ)) requires ©(log p) rounds of communication. Our upper bounds are given by simple structured algorithms using MapReduce. Our one-round lower bounds are proved in a very general model, which we call the Massively Parallel Communication (MPC) model, that allows processors to communicate arbitrary bits. Our multi-round lower bounds apply in a restricted version of the MPC model in which processors in subsequent rounds after the first communication round are only allowed to send tuples.

Estimating the Unseen: Improved Estimators for Entropy and other Properties

We show that a class of statistical properties of distributions, which includes such practically relevant properties as entropy, the number of distinct elements, and distance metrics between pairs of distributions, can be estimated given a sublinear sized sample. Specifically, given a sample consisting of independent draws from any distribution over at most k distinct elements, these properties can be estimated accurately using a sample of size O(k/log k). For these estimation tasks, this performance is optimal, to constant factors. Complementing these theoretical results, we also demonstrate that our estimators perform exceptionally well, in practice, for a variety of estimation tasks, on a variety of natural distributions, for a wide range of parameters. The key step in our approach is to first use the sample to characterize the unseen portion of the distributioneffectively reconstructing this portion of the distribution as accurately as if one had a logarithmic factor larger sample. This goes beyond such tools as the Good-Turing frequency estimation scheme, which estimates the total probability mass of the unobserved portion of the distribution: we seek to estimate the shape of the unobserved portion of the distribution. This work can be seen as introducing a robust, general, and theoretically principled framework that, for many practical applications, essentially amplifies the sample size by a logarithmic factor; we expect that it may be fruitfully used as a component within larger machine learning and statistical analysis systems.

Competitive Algorithms from Competitive Equilibria: Non-Clairvoyant Scheduling under Polyhedral Constraints

We introduce and study a general scheduling problem that we term the Polytope Scheduling problem (PSP). In this problem, jobs can have different arrival times and sizes; and the rates assigned by the scheduler to the jobs are subject to arbitrary packing constraints. The PSP framework captures a variety of scheduling problems, including the classical problems of unrelated machines scheduling, broadcast scheduling, and scheduling jobs of different parallelizability. It also captures scheduling constraints arising in diverse modern environments ranging from individual computer architectures to data centers. More concretely, PSP models multidimensional resource requirements and parallelizability, as well as network bandwidth requirements found in data center scheduling. We show a surprising result -- there is a single algorithm that is $O(1)$ competitive for all PSP instances when the objective is total completion time, and $O(1)$ competitive for a large sub-class of PSP instances when the objective is total flow time. This algorithm simply uses the well-known Proportional Fairness algorithm (PF) to perform allocations each time instant. Though PF has been extensively studied in the context of maximizing fairness in resource allocation, we present the first analysis in adversarial and general settings for optimizing job latency. Further, PF is non-clairvoyant, meaning that the algorithm doesn't need to know jobs sizes until their completion. We establish our positive results by making novel connections with Economics, in particular the notions of market clearing, Gross Substitutes, and Eisenberg Gale markets. We complement these positive results with a negative result: We show that for the total flow time objective, any non-clairvoyant algorithm for PSP has a strong lower bound on the competitive ratios unless given a poly-logarithmic speed augmentation. This motivates the need to consider sub-classes of PSP when studying flow time. The sub-class for which we obtain positive results not only captures several well-studied models such as scheduling with speedup curves and related machine scheduling, but also captures as special cases hitherto unstudied scheduling problems such as single source flow routing, routing multicast (video-on-demand) trees, and resource allocation with substitute resources.

Invited Articles Foreword for 64:5

Characterizing Transactional Memory Consistency Conditions using Observational Refinement

Transactional memory (TM) facilitates the development of concurrent applications by letting a programmer designate certain code blocks as atomic. The common approach to stating TM correctness is through a consistency condition that restricts the possible TM executions. Unfortunately, existing consistency conditions fall short of formalizing the intuitive semantics of atomic blocks through which programmers use a TM. To close this gap, we formalize programmer expectations as observational refinement between TM implementations. This states that properties of a program using a concrete TM implementation can be established by analyzing its behavior with an abstract TM, serving as a specification of the concrete one. We show that a variant of transactional memory specification (TMS), a TM consistency condition, is equivalent to observational refinement for a programming language where local variables are rolled back upon a transaction abort. We thereby establish that TMS is the weakest acceptable condition for this case. We then propose a new consistency condition, called Strong TMS, and show that is equivalent to observational refinement for a language where local variables are not rolled back upon aborts. Finally, we show that, under certain natural assumptions on TM implementations, Strong TMS is equivalent to a variant of a well-known condition of opacity. Our results suggest a new approach to evaluating TM consistency conditions and enable TM implementors and language designers to make better-informed decisions.

The Applied Pi Calculus: Mobile Values, New Names, and Secure Communication

We study the interaction of the programming construct "new", which generates statically scoped names, with communication via messages on channels. This interaction is crucial in security protocols, which are the main motivating examples for our work; it also appears in other programming-language contexts. We define the applied pi calculus, a simple, general extension of the pi calculus in which values can be formed from names via the application of built-in functions, subject to equations, and be sent as messages. (In contrast, the pure pi calculus lacks built-in functions; its only messages are atomic names.) We develop semantics and proof techniques for this extended language and apply them in reasoning about security protocols. This paper essentially subsumes the conference paper that introduced the applied pi calculus in 2001. It fills gaps, incorporates improvements, and further explains and studies the applied pi calculus. Since 2001, the applied pi calculus has been the basis for much further work, described in many research publications and sometimes embodied in useful software, such as the tool ProVerif, which relies on the applied pi calculus to support the specification and automatic analysis of security protocols. Although this paper does not aim to be a complete review of the subject, it benefits from that further work and provides better foundations for some of it. In particular, the applied pi calculus has evolved through its implementation in ProVerif, and the present definition reflects that evolution.

All ACM Journals | See Full Journal Index

Search JACM
enter search term and/or author name