skip to main content

TCS+ Talk

Wednesday, September 30, 2020
10:00am to 11:00am
Add to Cal
Online Event
Low-Degree Hardness of Random Optimization Problems
Alexander Wein, Postdoc, NYU,

Abstract: In high-dimensional statistical problems (including planted clique, sparse PCA, community detection, etc.), the class of "low-degree polynomial algorithms" captures many leading algorithmic paradigms such as spectral methods, approximate message passing, and local algorithms on sparse graphs. As such, lower bounds against low-degree algorithms constitute concrete evidence for average-case hardness of statistical problems. This method has been widely successful at explaining and predicting statistical-to-computational gaps in these settings.

While prior work has understood the power of low-degree algorithms for problems with a "planted" signal, we consider here the setting of "random optimization problems" (with no planted signal), including the problem of finding a large independent set in a random graph, as well as the problem of optimizing the Hamiltonian of mean-field spin glass models. I will define low-degree algorithms in this setting, argue that they capture the best known algorithms, and explain new proof techniques for giving lower bounds against low-degree algorithms in this setting. The proof involves a variant of the so-called "overlap gap property", which is a structural property of the solution space.

Based on joint work with David Gamarnik and Aukosh Jagannath, available at:

To watch the talk:

  • Watching the live stream. At the announced start time of the talk (or a minute before), a live video stream will be available on our "next talk" page. Simply connect to the page and enjoy the talk. No webcam or registration is needed. Questions and comments during the talk are welcome (text only, unfortunately); simply post a comment below the live video stream on YouTube.
  • Watching the recorded talk offline. The recorded talk will be made available shortly after the talk ends on our YouTube page. (Please leave a comment if you enjoyed it!)
For more information, please contact Bonnie Leung by email at [email protected].