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Title: Is it Easier to Prove Theorems that are Guaranteed to be True?
Consider the following two fundamental open problems in complexity theory: • Does a hard-on-average language in NP imply the existence of one-way functions? • Does a hard-on-average language in NP imply a hard-on-average problem in TFNP (i.e., the class of total NP search problem)? Our main result is that the answer to (at least) one of these questions is yes. Both one-way functions and problems in TFNP can be interpreted as promise-true distributional NP search problems—namely, distributional search problems where the sampler only samples true statements. As a direct corollary of the above result, we thus get that the existence of a hard-on-average distributional NP search problem implies a hard-on-average promise-true distributional NP search problem. In other words, It is no easier to find witnesses (a.k.a. proofs) for efficiently-sampled statements (theorems) that are guaranteed to be true. This result follows from a more general study of interactive puzzles—a generalization of average-case hardness in NP—and in particular, a novel round-collapse theorem for computationallysound protocols, analogous to Babai-Moran’s celebrated round-collapse theorem for informationtheoretically sound protocols. As another consequence of this treatment, we show that the existence of O(1)-round public-coin non-trivial arguments (i.e., argument systems that are not proofs) imply the existence of a hard-on-average problem in NP/poly.  more » « less
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IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science
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National Science Foundation
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