# On the Total Variation Distance of Labelled Markov Chains

- 11:00 18th June 2014 ( week 8, Trinity Term 2014 )051

Labelled Markov chains (LMCs) are widely used in probabilistic verification, speech recognition, computational biology, and many other fields. Checking two LMCs for equivalence is a classical problem subject to extensive studies, while the total variation distance provides a natural measure for the ``inequivalence'' of two LMCs: it is the maximum difference between probabilities that the LMCs assign to the same event. We develop a theory of the total variation distance between two LMCs, with emphasis on the algorithmic aspects: (1) we provide a polynomial-time algorithm for determining whether two LMCs have distance 1, i.e., whether they can almost always be distinguished; (2) we provide an algorithm for approximating the distance with arbitrary precision; and (3) we show that the threshold problem, i.e., whether the distance exceeds a given threshold, is NP-hard and hard for the square-root-sum problem. We also make a connection between the total variation distance and Bernoulli convolutions.

Joint work with Taolue Chen.