Approximate-At-Most-k Encoding of SAT for Soft Constraints

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Shunji Nishimura


In the field of Boolean satisfiability problems (SAT), at-most-k constraints, which suppress the number of true target variables at most k, are often used to describe objective problems. At-most-k constraints are used not only for absolutely necessary constraints (hard constraints) but also for challenging constraints (soft constraints) to search for better solutions. To encode at-most-k constraints into Boolean expressions, there is a problem that the number of Boolean expressions basically increases exponentially with the number of target variables, so at-most-k often has difficulties for a large number of variables. To solve this problem, this paper proposes a new encoding method of at-most-k constraints, called approximate-at-most-k, which has totally fewer Boolean expressions than conventional methods on the one hand. On the other hand, it has lost completeness, i.e., some Boolean value assignments that satisfy the original at-most-k are not allowed with approximate-at-most-k; hence, it is called approximate. Without completeness, we still have potential benefits by using them only as soft constraints. For example, approximate-at-most-16 out of 32 variables requires only 15% of a conventional at-most-k on the literal number and covers 44% of the solution space. Thus, approximate-at-most-k can become an alternative encoding method for at-most-k, especially as soft constraints.

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