Optimal rate code constructions for computationally simple channels

Venkatesan Guruswami, Adam Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We consider coding schemes for computationally bounded channels, which can introduce an arbitrary set of errors as long as (a) the fraction of errors is bounded with high probability by a parameter p and (b) the process that adds the errors can be described by a sufficiently "simple" circuit. Codes for such channel models are attractive since, like codes for standard adversarial errors, they can handle channels whose true behavior is unknown or varying over time. For two classes of channels, we provide explicit, efficiently encodable/decodable codes of optimal rate where only inefficiently decodable codes were previously known. In each case, we provide one encoder/decoder that works for every channel in the class. The encoders are randomized, and probabilities are taken over the (local, unknown to the decoder) coins of the encoder and those of the channel. Unique decoding for additive errors: We give the first construction of a polynomial-time encodable/decodable code for additive (a.k.a. oblivious) channels that achieve the Shannon capacity 1 - H(p). These are channels that add an arbitrary error vector e ∈ {0, 1}N of weight at most pN to the transmitted word; the vector e can depend on the code but not on the randomness of the encoder or the particular transmitted word. Such channels capture binary symmetric errors and burst errors as special cases. List decoding for polynomial-time channels: For every constant c > 0, we construct codes with optimal rate (arbitrarily close to 1 - H(p)) that efficiently recover a short list containing the correct message with high probability for channels describable by circuits of size at most Nc. Our construction is not fully explicit but rather Monte Carlo (we give an algorithm that, with high probability, produces an encoder/decoder pair that works for all time Nc channels). We are not aware of any channel models considered in the information theory literature other than purely adversarial channels, which require more than linear-size circuits to implement. We justify the relaxation to list decoding with an impossibility result showing that, in a large range of parameters (p > 1/4), codes that are uniquely decodable for a modest class of channels (online, memoryless, nonuniform channels) cannot have positive rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number35
JournalJournal of the ACM
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Artificial Intelligence


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