TITLE: The Algebraic Approach to Determining the Complexity of Constraint Satisfaction Problems

SPEAKER: William DeMeo

ABSTRACT: The “CSP-dichotomy conjecture” of Feder and Vardi asserts that every constraint satisfaction problem (CSP) is in P or is NP-complete. Sometime around the late 1990′s it was observed that a CSP is naturally associated with a general (universal) algebra via a certain Galois connection, and that this connection makes it possible to use algebraic methods to determine the complexity class of a CSP. This led to the “algebraic CSP-dichotomy conjecture” which, after more than a decade of substantial research, has been reduced to the following conjecture: the CSP associated with a finite idempotent algebra A is tractable if and only if the variety generated by A has a Taylor term.

In this talk we try to give most of the background required to understand the algebraic approach to CSP. We give some concrete examples that demonstrate how one uses properties of a universal algebra to determine the complexity class of a CSP. If time permits, we will highlight some of our most recent discoveries that have helped resolve the dichotomy conjecture for most idempotent varieties.

The talk should be fairly self-contained for anyone greater than or equal to a math or cs graduate student. Roughly speaking, if you have heard of the complexity classes P and NP and if you know what a universal algebra is, then you should understand most of this talk.