Mathematics and Computation

A blog about mathematics for computers

Continuity principles and the KLST theorem

On the occasion of Dieter Spreen's 75th birthday there will be a Festschrift in the Journal of Logic and Analysis. I have submitted a paper “Spreen spaces and the synthetic Kreisel-Lacombe-Shoenfield-Tseitin theorem”, available as a preprint arXiv:2307.07830, that develops a constructive account of Dieter's generalization of a famous theorem about continuity of computable functions. In this post I explain how the paper fits into the more general topic of continuity principles.

A continuity principle is a statement claiming that all functions from a given class are continuous. A silly example is the statement

Every map $f : X \to Y$ from a discrete space $X$ is continuous.

The dual

Every map $f : X \to Y$ to an indiscrete space $Y$ is continuous.

is equally silly, but these two demonstrate what we mean.

In order to find more interesting continuity principles, we have to look outside classical mathematics. A famous continuity principle was championed by Brouwer:

Brouwer's continuity principle: Every $f : \mathbb{N}^\mathbb{N}\to \mathbb{N}$ is continuous.

Here continuity is taken with respect to the discrete metric on $\mathbb{N}$ and the complete metric on $\mathbb{N}^\mathbb{N}$ defined by

$$\textstyle d(\alpha, \beta) = \lim_n 2^{-\min \lbrace k \in \mathbb{N} \,\mid\, k = n \lor \alpha_k \neq \beta_k\rbrace}.$$

The formula says that the distance between $\alpha$ and $\beta$ is $2^{-k}$ if $k \in \mathbb{N}$ is the least number such that $\alpha_k \neq \beta_k$. (The limit is there so that the definition works constructively as well.) Brouwer's continuity principle is valid in the Kleene-Vesley topos.

In the effective topos we have the following continuity principle:

KLST continuity principle: Every map $f : X \to Y$ from a complete separable metric space $X$ to a metric space $Y$ is continuous.

The letters K, L, S, and T are the initials of Georg Kreisel, Daniel Lacombe, Joseph R. Shoenfield, and Grigori Tseitin, who proved various variants of this theorem in the context of computability theory (the above version is closest to Tseitin's).

A third topos with good continuity principles is Johnstone's topological topos, see Section 5.4 of Davorin Lešnik's PhD dissertaton for details.

There is a systematic way of organizing such continuity principles with synthetic topology. Recall that in synthetic topology we start by axiomatizing an object $\Sigma \subseteq \Omega$ of “open truth values”, called a dominance, and define the intrinsic topology of $X$ to be the exponential $\Sigma^X$. This idea is based on an observation from traditional topology: the topology a space $X$ is in bijective correspondence with continuous maps $\mathcal{C}(X, \mathbb{S})$, where $\mathbb{S}$ is the Sierpinski space.

Say that a map $f : X \to Y$ is intrinsically continuous when the invese image map $f^\star$ maps intrinsically open sets to intrinsically open sets.

Intrinsic continuity principle: Every map $f : X \to Y$ is intrinsically continuous.

Proof. The inverse image $f^\star(U)$ of $U \in \Sigma^Y$ is $U \circ f \in \Sigma^X$. □

Given how trivial the proof is, we cannot expect to squeeze much from the intrinsic continuity principle. In classical mathematics the principle is trivial because there $\Sigma = \Omega$, so all intrinsic topologies are discrete.

But suppose we knew that the intrinsic topologies of $X$ and $Y$ were metrized, i.e., they coincided with metric topologies induces by some metrics $d_X : X \times X \to \mathbb{R}$ and $d_Y : Y \times Y \to \mathbb{R}$. Then the intrinsic continuity principle would imply that every map $f : X \to Y$ is continuous with respect to the metrics. But can this happen? In “Metric spaces in synthetic topology” by Davorin Lešnik and myself we showed that in the Kleene-Vesley topos the intrinsic topology of a complete separable metric space is indeed metrized. Consequently, we may factor Brouwer's continuity principles into two facts:

  1. Easy general fact: the intrinsic continuity principle.
  2. Hard specific fact: in the Kleene-Vesley topos the intrinsic topology of a complete separable metric space is metrized.

Can we similarly factor the KLST continuity principle? I give an affirmative answer in the submitted paper, by translating Dieter Spreen's “On Effective Topological Spaces” from computability theory and numbered sets to synthetic topology. What comes out is a new topological separation property:

Definition: A Spreen space is a topological space $(X, \mathcal{T})$ with the following separation property: if $x \in X$ is separated from an overt $T \subseteq X$ by an intrinsically open subset, then it is already separated from it by a $\mathcal{T}$-open subset.

Precisely, a Spreen space $(X, \mathcal{T})$ satisfies: if $x \in S \in \Sigma^X$ and $S$ is disjoint from an overt $T \subseteq X$, then there is an open $U \in \mathcal{T}$ such that $x \in U$ and $U \cap T = \emptyset$. The synthetic KLST states:

Synthetic KLST continuity principle: Every map from an overt Spreen space to a pointwise regular space is pointwise continuous.

The proof is short enough to be reproduced here. (I am skipping over some details, the important one being that we require open sets to be intrinsically open.)

Proof. Consider a map $f : X \to Y$ from an overt Spreen space $(X, \mathcal{T}_X)$ to a regular space $(Y, \mathcal{T}_Y)$. Given any $x \in X$ and $V \in \mathcal{T}_Y$ such that $f(x) \in V$, we seek $U \in \mathcal{T}_X$ such that $x \in U \subseteq f^\star(V)$. Because $Y$ is regular, there exist disjoint $W_1, W_2 \in \mathcal{T}_Y$ such that $x \in W_1 \subseteq V$ and $V \cup W_2 = Y$. The inverse image $f^\star(W_1)$ contains $x$ and is intrinsically open. It is also disjoint from $f^\star(W_2)$, which is overt because it is an intrinsically open subset of an overt space. As $X$ is a Spreen space, there exists $U \in \mathcal{T}_X$ such that $x \in U$ and $U \cap f{*}(W_2) = \emptyset$, from which $U \subseteq V$ follows. □

Are there any non-trivial Spreen spaces? In classical mathematics every Spreen space is discrete, so we have to look elsewhere. I show that they are plentiful in synthetic computability:

Theorem (synthetic computability): Countably based sober spaces are Spreen spaces.

Please consult the paper for the proof.

There is an emergent pattern here: take a theorem that holds under very special circumstances, for instance in a specific topos or in the presence of anti-classical axioms, and reformulate it so that it becomes generally true, has a simple proof, but in order to exhibit some interesting instances of the theorem, we have to work hard. What are some other examples of such theorems? I know of one, namely Lawvere's fixed point theorem. It took some effort to produce non-trivial examples of it, once again in synthetic computability, see On fixed-point theorems in synthetic computability.

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