PhD Seminar • Data Systems • Recovery from Non-decomposable Distance Oracles

Wednesday, November 29, 2023 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

Please note: This PhD seminar will take place in DC 1304 and online.

Shufan Zhang, PhD candidate
David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science

Supervisor: Professor Xi He

A line of work has looked at the problem of recovering an input from distance queries. In this setting, there is an unknown sequence s∈{0,1}n, and one chooses a set of queries y∈{0,1}n and receives d(s,y) for a distance function d. The goal is to make as few queries as possible to recover s. Although this problem is well-studied for decomposable distances, i.e., distances of the form d(s,y)=∑ni=1 f(si,yi) for some function f, which includes the important cases of Hamming distance, ℓp-norms, and M-estimators, to the best of our knowledge this problem has not been studied for non-decomposable distances, for which there are important special cases such as edit distance, dynamic time warping (DTW), Frechet distance, earth mover's distance, and so on.

We initiate the study and develop a general framework for such distances. Interestingly, for some distances such as DTW or Frechet, exact recovery of the sequence s is provably impossible, and so we show by allowing the characters in y to be drawn from a slightly larger alphabet this then becomes possible. In a number of cases we obtain optimal or near-optimal query complexity. We also study the role of adaptivity for a number of different distance functions. One motivation for understanding non-adaptivity is that the query sequence can be fixed and the distances of the input to the queries provide a non-linear embedding of the input, which can be used in downstream applications involving, e.g., neural networks for natural language processing.