The triviality problem for profinite completions

Research paper by Martin R. Bridson, Henry Wilton

Indexed on: 24 Feb '15Published on: 24 Feb '15Published in: Inventiones mathematicae


We prove that there is no algorithm that can determine whether or not a finitely presented group has a non-trivial finite quotient; indeed, this property remains undecidable among the fundamental groups of compact, non-positively curved square complexes. We deduce that many other properties of groups are undecidable. For hyperbolic groups, there cannot exist algorithms to determine largeness, the existence of a linear representation with infinite image (over any infinite field), or the rank of the profinite completion.