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Abstract:We initiate the study of \emph{inverse} problems in approximate uniform generation, focusing on uniform generation of satisfying assignments of various types of Boolean functions. In such an inverse problem, the algorithm is given uniform random satisfying assignments of an unknown function $f$ belonging to a class $\C$ of Boolean functions, and the goal is to output a probability distribution $D$ which is $\epsilon$-close, in total variation distance, to the uniform distribution over $f^{-1}(1)$. Positive results: We prove a general positive result establishing sufficient conditions for efficient inverse approximate uniform generation for a class $\C$. We define a new type of algorithm called a \emph{densifier} for $\C$, and show (roughly speaking) how to combine (i) a densifier, (ii) an approximate counting / uniform generation algorithm, and (iii) a Statistical Query learning algorithm, to obtain an inverse approximate uniform generation algorithm. We apply this general result to obtain a poly$(n,1/\eps)$-time algorithm for the class of halfspaces; and a quasipoly$(n,1/\eps)$-time algorithm for the class of $\poly(n)$-size DNF formulas. Negative results: We prove a general negative result establishing that the existence of certain types of signature schemes in cryptography implies the hardness of certain inverse approximate uniform generation problems. This implies that there are no {subexponential}-time inverse approximate uniform generation algorithms for 3-CNF formulas; for intersections of two halfspaces; for degree-2 polynomial threshold functions; and for monotone 2-CNF formulas. Finally, we show that there is no general relationship between the complexity of the "forward" approximate uniform generation problem and the complexity of the inverse problem for a class $\C$ -- it is possible for either one to be easy while the other is hard.