The Parameterized Complexity of Reasoning Problems Beyond NP

Ronald de Haan, Stefan Szeider

Today's propositional satisfiability (SAT) solvers are extremely powerful and can be used as an efficient back-end for solving NP-complete problems. However, many fundamental problems in knowledge representation and reasoning are located at the second level of the Polynomial Hierarchy or even higher, and hence polynomial-time transformations to SAT are not possible, unless the hierarchy collapses. Recent research shows that in certain cases one can break through these complexity barriers by fixed-parameter tractable (fpt) reductions which exploit structural aspects of problem instances in terms of problem parameters. In this paper we develop a general theoretical framework that supports the classification of parameterized problems on whether they admit such an fpt-reduction to SAT or not. This framework is based on several new parameterized complexity classes. As a running example, we use the framework to classify the complexity of the consistency problem for disjunctive answer set programming, with respect to various natural parameters. We underpin the robustness of our theory by providing a characterization of the new complexity classes in terms of weighted QBF satisfiability, alternating Turing machines, and first-order model checking. In addition, we provide a compendium of parameterized problems that are complete for the new complexity classes, including problems related to Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, Logic, and Combinatorics.

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