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NP is as easy as detecting unique solutions. (English) Zbl 0621.68030
For every known NP-complete problem, the number of solutions of its instances varies over a large range, from zero to exponentially many. It is therefore natural to ask if the inherent intractability of NP-complete problems is caused by this wide variation. We give a negative answer to this question using the notion of randomized polynomial time reducibility. We show that the problems of distinguishing between instances of SAT having zero or one solution, or of finding solutions to instances of SAT having a unique solution, are as hard as SAT, under randomized reductions. Several corollaries about the difficulty of specific problems follow. For example, computing the parity of the number of solutions of a SAT formula is shown to be NP-hard, and deciding if a SAT formula has a unique solution is shown to be \(D^ p\)-hard, under randomized reduction. Central to the study of cryptography is the question as to whether there exist NP-problems whose instances have solutions that are unique but are hard to find. Our result can be interpreted as strengthening the belief that such problems exist.

MSC:
68Q25 Analysis of algorithms and problem complexity
94A60 Cryptography
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