On Robustness for the Skolem, Positivity and Ultimate Positivity Problems

by   S. Akshay, et al.

The Skolem problem is a long-standing open problem in linear dynamical systems: can a linear recurrence sequence (LRS) ever reach 0 from a given initial configuration? Similarly, the positivity problem asks whether the LRS stays positive from an initial configuration. Deciding Skolem (or positivity) has been open for half a century: the best known decidability results are for LRS with special properties (e.g., low order recurrences). But these problems are easier for “uninitialized” variants, where the initial configuration is not fixed but can vary arbitrarily: checking if there is an initial configuration from which the LRS stays positive can be decided in polynomial time (Tiwari in 2004, Braverman in 2006). In this paper, we consider problems that lie between the initialized and uninitialized variant. More precisely, we ask if 0 (resp. negative numbers) can be avoided from every initial configuration in a neighborhood of a given initial configuration. This can be considered as a robust variant of the Skolem (resp. positivity) problem. We show that these problems lie at the frontier of decidability: if the neighbourhood is given as part of the input, then robust Skolem and robust positivity are Diophantine hard, i.e., solving either would entail major breakthrough in Diophantine approximations, as happens for (non-robust) positivity. However, if one asks whether such a neighbourhood exists, then the problems turn out to be decidable with PSPACE complexity. Our techniques also allow us to tackle robustness for ultimate positivity, which asks whether there is a bound on the number of steps after which the LRS remains positive. There are two variants depending on whether we ask for a “uniform” bound on this number of steps. For the non-uniform variant, when the neighbourhood is open, the problem turns out to be tractable, even when the neighbourhood is given as input.


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