On a problem posed by Steve Smale


The 17th of the problems proposed by Steve Smale for the 21st century asks for the existence of a deterministic algorithm computing an approximate solution of a system of $n$ complex polynomials in $n$ unknowns in time polynomial, on the average, in the size $N$ of the input system. A partial solution to this problem was given by Carlos Beltrán and Luis Miguel Pardo who exhibited a randomized algorithm doing so. In this paper we further extend this result in several directions. Firstly, we exhibit a linear homotopy algorithm that efficiently implements a nonconstructive idea of Mike Shub. This algorithm is then used in a randomized algorithm, call it LV, à la Beltrán-Pardo. Secondly, we perform a smoothed analysis (in the sense of Spielman and Teng) of algorithm LV and prove that its smoothed complexity is polynomial in the input size and $\sigma^{-1}$, where $\sigma$ controls the size of of the random perturbation of the input systems. Thirdly, we perform a condition-based analysis of LV. That is, we give a bound, for each system $f$, of the expected running time of LV with input $f$. In addition to its dependence on $N$ this bound also depends on the condition of $f$. Fourthly, and to conclude, we return to Smale’s 17th problem as originally formulated for deterministic algorithms. We exhibit such an algorithm and show that its average complexity is $N^{\mathcal{O}(\log\log N)}$. This is nearly a solution to Smale’s 17th problem.


Peter Bürgisser

Institute of Mathematics
University of Paderborn
D-33098 Paderborn

Felipe Cucker

Department of Mathematics
City University of Hong Kong
Kowloon Tong
Hong Kong