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XORification is the technique to make a Boolean function or formula harder by replacing every variable $x$ by the XOR of $k\geq 2$ distinct variables $x_1 \oplus \ldots \oplus x_k$.

I am aware of uses of this technique in proof complexity, mainly to obtain space lower bounds for resolution-based proof systems, e.g., in the papers:

  • Eli Ben-Sasson. Size space tradeoffs for resolution. STOC 2002, 457-464.
  • Eli Ben-Sasson and Jakob Nordström. Understanding Space in Proof Complexity: Separations and Trade-offs via Substitutions. ICS 2011, 401-416.

Are there other uses of this technique in other areas?

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Here's an somewhat relevant example we are currently covering in my class.

The "storage access function" is defined on $2^k+k$ bits as:

$SA(x_1,...,x_{2^k}, a_1,...,a_k) = x_{bin(a_1 \cdots a_k)}$

where $bin(a_1 \cdots a_k)$ is the unique integer in $\{1,\ldots,2^k\}$ corresponding to the string $a_1 \cdots a_k$.

$SA$ has formulas of size about $O(k \cdot 2^k)$ over AND/OR/NOT: have $2^k$ groups of all possible $k$-ANDs over the $a_i$ variables, so that exactly one group outputs $1$ on every input. Then AND each bit $x_i$ with the output of the corresponding group, then OR all of these outputs.

However, the following "SA of XOR" function, on $2^{k+1}$ inputs, requires about $2^{3k}$-size formulas over AND/OR/NOT:

$SA(x_1,...,x_{2^k}, \bigoplus_{j=1}^{2^k/k} a_{1,j},..., \bigoplus_{j=1}^{2^k/k} a_{k,j}) = x_{bin(a_1 \cdots a_k)}$.

This is often called "Andreev's function" in the literature. Hastad proved (improving a component of Andreev's argument) that cubic-size formulas are essentially necessary. (It is not hard to find nearly cubic-size formulas for it, too.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Ryan, that's exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. $\endgroup$ – Jan Johannsen Nov 21 '11 at 9:30
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This might be a slight reach, but the idea of XOR'ing a bunch of things to make a task "harder" shows up in cryptography. It first appeared in the guise of Yao's XOR lemma. If $X$ is a slightly unpredictable random variable, then $Y = X_1 \oplus X_2 \oplus \cdots \oplus X_k$ is extremely unpredictable if $k$ is large enough, where the $X_i$'s are independent draws of $X$.

Nowadays, this technique is quite standard in crypto, typically for amplifying a weak construction (commitment scheme, oblivious transfer protocol, etc) into a strong one.

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    $\begingroup$ To complement this post: XOR lemmas are everywhere. Eg, see this paper and its references: theoryofcomputing.org/articles/v004a007 $\endgroup$ – MCH Nov 16 '11 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ The XOR lemma is different from what I look for: here a $k$-ary parity gate is added at the output, with $k$ copies of the function fed into it. XORification on the other hand adds a $k$-ary parity gate at each input, with $k$ new variables fed into it. $\endgroup$ – Jan Johannsen Nov 17 '11 at 10:59

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