Computing the interleaving distance is NP-hard

Håvard Bakke Bjerkevik, Magnus Bakke Botnan, Michael Kerber

We show that computing the interleaving distance between two multi-graded persistence modules is NP-hard. More precisely, we show that deciding whether two modules are $1$-interleaved is NP-complete, already for bigraded, interval decomposable modules. Our proof is based on previous work showing that a constrained matrix invertibility problem can be reduced to the interleaving distance computation of a special type of persistence modules. We show that this matrix invertibility problem is NP-complete. We also give a slight improvement of the above reduction, showing that also the approximation of the interleaving distance is NP-hard for any approximation factor smaller than $3$. Additionally, we obtain corresponding hardness results for the case that the modules are indecomposable, and in the setting of one-sided stability. Furthermore, we show that checking for injections (resp. surjections) between persistence modules is NP-hard. In conjunction with earlier results from computational algebra this gives a complete characterization of the computational complexity of one-sided stability. Lastly, we show that it is in general NP-hard to approximate distances induced by noise systems within a factor of 2.

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