Proving Almost-Sure Termination of Probabilistic Programs via Incremental Pruning

08/14/2020
by   Krishnendu Chatterjee, et al.
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The extension of classical imperative programs with real-valued random variables and random branching gives rise to probabilistic programs. The termination problem is one of the most fundamental liveness properties for such programs. The qualitative (aka almost-sure) termination problem asks whether a given program terminates with probability 1. Ranking functions provide a sound and complete approach for termination of non-probabilistic programs, and their extension to probabilistic programs is achieved via ranking supermartingales (RSMs). RSMs have been extended to lexicographic RSMs to handle programs with involved control-flow structure, as well as for compositional approach. There are two key limitations of the existing RSM-based approaches: First, the lexicographic RSM-based approach requires a strong nonnegativity assumption, which need not always be satisfied. The second key limitation of the existing RSM-based algorithmic approaches is that they rely on pre-computed invariants. The main drawback of relying on pre-computed invariants is the insufficiency-inefficiency trade-off: weak invariants might be insufficient for RSMs to prove termination, while using strong invariants leads to inefficiency in computing them. Our contributions are twofold: First, we show how to relax the strong nonnegativity condition and still provide soundness guarantee for almost-sure termination. Second, we present an incremental approach where the process of computing lexicographic RSMs proceeds by iterative pruning of parts of the program that were already shown to be terminating, in cooperation with a safety prover. In particular, our technique does not rely on strong pre-computed invariants. We present experimental results to show the applicability of our approach to examples of probabilistic programs from the literature.

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