Speaker: Lisa Hellerstein, Polytechnic Institute of NYU
Title: Approximation Algorithms for Stochastic Boolean Function Evaluation and Stochastic Submodular Set Cover
Stochastic Boolean Function Evaluation is the problem of determining the value of a given Boolean function f on an unknown input x, when each bit of x_i of x can only be determined by paying an associated cost c_i. The assumption is that x is drawn from a given product distribution, and the goal is to minimize the expected cost. This problem has been studied in Operations Research, where it is known as "sequential testing" of Boolean functions. It has also been studied in learning theory in the context of learning with attribute costs. We consider the general problem of developing approximation algorithms for Stochastic Boolean Function Evaluation. We give a 3-approximation algorithm for evaluating Boolean linear threshold formulas. We also present an approximation algorithm for evaluating CDNF formulas (and decision trees) achieving a factor of O(log kd), where k is the number of terms in the DNF formula, and d is the number of clauses in the CNF formula.
In addition, we present approximation algorithms for simultaneous evaluation of linear threshold functions, and for ranking of linear functions. Our function evaluation algorithms are based on reductions to the Stochastic Submodular Set Cover (SSSC) problem. This problem was introduced by Golovin and Krause. They presented an approximation algorithm for the problem, called Adaptive Greedy. Our main technical contribution is a new approximation algorithm for the SSSC problem, which we call Adaptive Dual Greedy. It is an extension of the Dual Greedy algorithm for Submodular Set Cover due to Fujito, which is a generalization of Hochbaum's algorithm for the classical Set Cover Problem. We also give a new bound on the approximation achieved by the Adaptive Greedy algorithm of Golovin and Krause.