One of the main successes in circuit complexity is the strong lower bounds on complexity of monotone circuits. By analogy, one might expect that studying monotone reasoning would lead to similar lower bounds in proof complexity. Yet surprisingly, Atserias, Galesi and Pudlak have given a general quasipolynomial simulation of sequent calculus LK by its monotone fragment MLK. Moreover, their techniques give a polynomial simulation, provided properties of AKS sorting networks can be formalized inside LK. Such formalization was obtained in 2011 by Jerabek, assuming provable in LK existence of expander graphs.

Several major results in complexity theory such as undirected graph reachability in logspace (Reingold, Rozenman-Vadhan) and monotone formulas for sorting (Ajtai-Komlos-Szemeredi sorting networks) are based on properties of expander graphs. But what is the complexity such proofs? Much of the existing expander constructions rely on computationally non-trivial algebraic concepts for the analysis, such as the spectral gap, even when constructions themselves are combinatorial.

In this work, we show that existence of expanders of arbitrary size can be proven using NC^1 reasoning. We give a fully combinatorial analysis of an iterative construction of expanders using replacement product, powering and tensoring, and formalize this analysis in the bounded arithmetic system VNC^1. Combined with Atserias, Galesi, Pudlak'2002 and Jerabek'2011, this completes the proof that monotone LK is as powerful as LK for proving monotone sequents.

Joint work with Sam Buss, Valentine Kabanets and Michal Koucky.

Complexity of expander-based reasoning and the power of monotone proofs