Instruction lookups

In Jolt, the "execute" part of the "fetch-decode-execute" loop is handled using a lookup argument (Lasso). At a high level, the lookup queries are the instruction operands, and the lookup outputs are the instruction outputs.


Lasso is a lookup argument (equivalent to a SNARK for reads into a read-only memory). Lookup arguments allow the prover to convince the verifier that for a committed vector of values , committed vector of indices , and lookup table , for all .

Lasso is a special lookup argument with highly desirable asymptotic costs largely correlated to the number of lookups (the length of the vectors and ), rather than the length of of the table .

A conversational background on lookups can be found here. In short: lookups are great for zkVMs as they allow constant cost / developer complexity for the prover algorithm per VM instruction.

A detailed engineering overview of Lasso (as a standalone lookup argument) can be found here.

Using Lasso to handle instruction execution

Lasso requires that each primitive instruction satisfies a decomposability property. The property needed is that the input(s) to the instruction can be broken into "chunks" (say, with each chunk consisting of 16 bits), such that one can obtain the answer to the original instruction by evaluating a simple function on each chunk and then "collating" the results together. For example, the bitwise-OR of two 32-bit inputs x and y can be computed by breaking each input up into 8-bit chunks, XORing each 8-bit chunk of x with the associated chunk of y, and concatenating the results together.

In Lasso, we call the task of evaluating a simple function on each chunk a "subtable lookup" (the relevant lookup table being the table storing all evaluations of the simple function). And the "collating" of the results of the subtable lookups into the result of the original lookup (instruction execution on the un-chunked inputs) is handled via an invocation of the sum-check protocol. We call this the "primary sumcheck" instance in Lasso.

The "primary sumcheck" collation looks as follows for a trace of length and a VM with unique instructions.

is an indicator function for the -th instruction: if instruction is used during the -th step of the trace, when .

is the collation function used by the -th instruction.

where is the number of independent memories used by an instruction. For simple instructions like the EQ instruction, , where is the number of chunks that the inputs are broken into, so . More complicated instructions such LT might have . The exact layout is dependent on the number of subtables required by the decomposition of the instruction. The mappings can be found in the JoltInstruction::subtable method implementations.

Mental Model

For a given (think integer index of the instruction within the trace), for all but one term of the outer sum. Similarly all for all but one term of the inner sum. Leaving just the collation function of a single instruction, evaluating to the collated lookup output of the single instruction. In reality is a random point selected by the verifier over the course of the protocol. The evaluation point provides a distance amplified encoding of the entire trace of instructions.

To illustrate more concretely imagine a two-instruction VM for LT and EQ instructions with .

Subtable Flags


  • We then use memory checking to determine that each of the memories is well formed
  • At a given step of the CPU only a single instruction will be used, that means that only that instruction's subtables will be used. For the rest of the memories we insert a no_op with (a, v) = 0. In order to make the GKR trees cheaper to compute and sumcheck we'll add a single additional layer to the GKR tree. During this layer we'll "toggle" each of the GKR leaves to "1" in the case that it is an unused step of the CPU. This will make the binary tree of multiplication gates cheaper. We'll toggle based on a new flags polynomial called which is the sum of all of the used in the instruction collation above.
  • The function to compute each of the leaves becomes