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342
Algorithmic mechanism design
 Games and Economic Behavior
, 1999
"... We consider algorithmic problems in a distributed setting where the participants cannot be assumed to follow the algorithm but rather their own selfinterest. As such participants, termed agents, are capable of manipulating the algorithm, the algorithm designer should ensure in advance that the agen ..."
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Cited by 656 (21 self)
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We consider algorithmic problems in a distributed setting where the participants cannot be assumed to follow the algorithm but rather their own selfinterest. As such participants, termed agents, are capable of manipulating the algorithm, the algorithm designer should ensure in advance that the agents ’ interests are best served by behaving correctly. Following notions from the field of mechanism design, we suggest a framework for studying such algorithms. Our main technical contribution concerns the study of a representative task scheduling problem for which the standard mechanism design tools do not suffice. Journal of Economic Literature
Improved algorithms for optimal winner determination in combinatorial auctions and generalizations
, 2000
"... Combinatorial auctions can be used to reach efficient resource and task allocations in multiagent systems where the items are complementary. Determining the winners is NPcomplete and inapproximable, but it was recently shown that optimal search algorithms do very well on average. This paper present ..."
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Cited by 576 (53 self)
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Combinatorial auctions can be used to reach efficient resource and task allocations in multiagent systems where the items are complementary. Determining the winners is NPcomplete and inapproximable, but it was recently shown that optimal search algorithms do very well on average. This paper presents a more sophisticated search algorithm for optimal (and anytime) winner determination, including structural improvements that reduce search tree size, faster data structures, and optimizations at search nodes based on driving toward, identifying and solving tractable special cases. We also uncover a more general tractable special case, and design algorithms for solving it as well as for solving known tractable special cases substantially faster. We generalize combinatorial auctions to multiple units of each item, to reserve prices on singletons as well as combinations, and to combinatorial exchanges  all allowing for substitutability. Finally, we present algorithms for determining the winners in these generalizations.
Taming the computational complexity of combinatorial auctions: Optimal and approximate approaches
, 1999
"... In combinatorial auctions, multiple goods are sold simultaneously and bidders may bid for arbitrary combinations of goods. Determining the outcome of such an auction is an optimization problem that is NPcomplete in the general case. We propose two methods of overcoming this apparent intractability. ..."
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Cited by 286 (9 self)
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In combinatorial auctions, multiple goods are sold simultaneously and bidders may bid for arbitrary combinations of goods. Determining the outcome of such an auction is an optimization problem that is NPcomplete in the general case. We propose two methods of overcoming this apparent intractability. The first method, which is guaranteed to be optimal, reduces running time by structuring the search space so that a modified depthfirst search usually avoids even considering allocations that contain conflicting bids. Caching and pruning are also used to speed searching. Our second method is a heuristic, marketbased approach. It sets up a virtual multiround auction in which a virtual agent represents each original bid bundle and places bids, according to a fixed strategy, for each good in that bundle. We show through experiments on synthetic data that (a) our first method finds optimal allocations quickly and offers good anytime performance, and (b) in many cases our second method, despite lacking guarantees regarding optimality or running time, quickly reaches solutions that are nearly optimal. 1 Combinatorial Auctions Auction theory has received increasing attention from computer scientists in recent years. 1 One reason is the explosion of internetbased auctions. The use of auctions in businesstobusiness trades is also increasing rapidly [Cortese and Stepanek, 1998]. Within AI there is growing interest in using auction mechanisms to solve distributed resource allocation problems. For example, auctions and other market mechanisms are used in network bandwidth allocation, distributed configuration design, factory scheduling, and operating system memory allocation [Clearwater, 1996]. Marketoriented programming has
Bidding and Allocation in Combinatorial Auctions
 IN ACM CONFERENCE ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE
, 2000
"... When an auction of multiple items is performed, it is often desirable to allow bids on combinations of items, as opposed to only on single items. Such an auction is often called "combinatorial", and the exponential number of possible combinations results in computational intractability o ..."
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Cited by 270 (11 self)
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When an auction of multiple items is performed, it is often desirable to allow bids on combinations of items, as opposed to only on single items. Such an auction is often called "combinatorial", and the exponential number of possible combinations results in computational intractability of many aspects regarding such an auction. This paper considers two of these aspects: the bidding language and the allocation algorithm. First we consider which kinds of bids on combinations are allowed and how, i.e. in what language, they are specified. The basic tradeoff is the expressibility of the language versus its simplicity. We consider and formalize several bidding languages and compare their strengths. We prove exponential separations between the expressive power of different languages, and show that one language, "ORbids with phantom items", can polynomially simulate the others. We then consider the problem of determining the best allocation  a problem known to be computationally intractable. We suggest an approach based on Linear Programming (LP) and motivate it. We prove that the LP approach finds an optimal allocation if and only if prices can be attached to single items in the auction. We pinpoint several classes of auctions where this is the case, and suggest greedy and branchandbound heuristics based on LP for other cases.
Coalition Structure Generation with Worst Case Guarantees
, 1999
"... Coalition formation is a key topic in multiagent systems. One may prefer a coalition structure that maximizes the sum of the values of the coalitions, but often the number of coalition structures is too large to allow exhaustive search for the optimal one. Furthermore, finding the optimal coalition ..."
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Cited by 265 (9 self)
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Coalition formation is a key topic in multiagent systems. One may prefer a coalition structure that maximizes the sum of the values of the coalitions, but often the number of coalition structures is too large to allow exhaustive search for the optimal one. Furthermore, finding the optimal coalition structure is NPcomplete. But then, can the coalition structure found via a partial search be guaranteed to be within a bound from optimum? We show that none of the previous coalition structure generation algorithms can establish any bound because they search fewer nodes than a threshold that we show necessary for establishing a bound. We present an algorithm that establishes a tight bound within this minimal amount of search, and show that any other algorithm would have to search strictly more. The fraction of nodes needed to be searched approaches zero as the number of agents grows. If additional time remains, our anytime algorithm searches further, and establishes a progressively lower tight bound. Surprisingly, just searching one more node drops the bound in half. As desired, our algorithm lowers the bound rapidly early on, and exhibits diminishing returns to computation. It also significantly outperforms its obvious contenders. Finally, we show how to distribute the desired
Truth revelation in approximately efficient combinatorial auctions
 Journal of the ACM
, 2002
"... Abstract. Some important classical mechanisms considered in Microeconomics and Game Theory require the solution of a difficult optimization problem. This is true of mechanisms for combinatorial auctions, which have in recent years assumed practical importance, and in particular of the gold standard ..."
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Cited by 228 (1 self)
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Abstract. Some important classical mechanisms considered in Microeconomics and Game Theory require the solution of a difficult optimization problem. This is true of mechanisms for combinatorial auctions, which have in recent years assumed practical importance, and in particular of the gold standard for combinatorial auctions, the Generalized Vickrey Auction (GVA). Traditional analysis of these mechanisms—in particular, their truth revelation properties—assumes that the optimization problems are solved precisely. In reality, these optimization problems can usually be solved only in an approximate fashion. We investigate the impact on such mechanisms of replacing exact solutions by approximate ones. Specifically, we look at a particular greedy optimization method. We show that the GVA payment scheme does not provide for a truth revealing mechanism. We introduce another scheme that does guarantee truthfulness for a restricted class of players. We demonstrate the latter property by identifying natural properties for combinatorial auctions and showing that, for our restricted class of players, they imply that truthful strategies are dominant. Those properties have applicability beyond the specific auction studied.
Analyzing the Airwaves Auction
 Journal of Economic Perspectives
, 1998
"... The US government recently sold spectrum rights using an innovative auction design, the simultaneous ascending auction, invented by economic theorists. The auction outcomes were broadly consistent with the expectations of the theorists. The auction form should have many other applications. March 21, ..."
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Cited by 226 (7 self)
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The US government recently sold spectrum rights using an innovative auction design, the simultaneous ascending auction, invented by economic theorists. The auction outcomes were broadly consistent with the expectations of the theorists. The auction form should have many other applications. March 21, 1998 Just as the Nobel committee was recognizing game theory's role in economics by awarding the 1994 prize to John Nash, John Harsanyi, and Reinhard Selten, game theory was being put to its biggest use ever. Billions of dollars worth of spectrum licenses were being sold by the US government, using a novel auction form designed by economic theorists. Suddenly, game theory became news. William Safire in the New York Times called it "the greatest auction in history." The Economist remarked, "When government auctioneers need worldly advice, where can they turn? To mathematical economists, of course . . . As for the firms that want to get their hands on a sliver of the airwaves, their best bet is to go out first and hire themselves a good game theorist." Fortune said it was the "most dramatic example of game theory's new power . . . It was a triumph, not only for the FCC and the taxpayers, but also for game theory (and game theorists)." Forbes said, "Game theory, long an intellectual pastime, came into its own as a business tool." The Wall Street Journal said, "Game theory is hot." The government auctioned licenses to use the electromagnetic spectrum for personal communications services (PCS): mobile telephones, twoway paging, portable fax machines, and wireless computer networks. Thousands of licenses were offered, varying in both geographic coverage and the amount of spectrum covered. The bidders were the local, longdistance, and cellular telephone companies, as well as...
Computationally feasible VCG mechanisms
 In Proceedings of the Second ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce (EC’00
, 2000
"... A major achievement of mechanism design theory is a general method for the construction of truthful mechanisms called VCG. When applying this method to complex problems such as combinatorial auctions, a difficulty arises: VCG mechanisms are required to compute optimal outcomes and are therefore comp ..."
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Cited by 213 (6 self)
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A major achievement of mechanism design theory is a general method for the construction of truthful mechanisms called VCG. When applying this method to complex problems such as combinatorial auctions, a difficulty arises: VCG mechanisms are required to compute optimal outcomes and are therefore computationally infeasible. However, if the optimal outcome is replaced by the results of a suboptimal algorithm, the resulting mechanism (termed VCGbased) is no longer necessarily truthful. The first part of this paper studies this phenomenon in depth and shows that it is near universal. Specifically, we prove that essentially all reasonable approximations or heuristics for combinatorial auctions as well as a wide class of cost minimization problems yield nontruthful VCGbased mechanisms. We generalize these results for affine maximizers. The second part of this paper proposes a general method for circumventing the above problem. We introduce a modification of VCGbased mechanisms in which the agents are given a chance to improve the output of the underlying algorithm. When the agents behave truthfully, the welfare obtained by the mechanism is at least as good as the one obtained by the algorithm’s output. We provide a strong rationale for truthtelling behavior. Our method satisfies individual rationality as well.
Combinatorial auctions: A survey
, 2000
"... Many auctions involve the sale of a variety of distinct assets. Examples are airport time slots, delivery routes and furniture. Because of complementarities (or substitution effects) between the different assets, bidders have preferences not just for particular items but for sets or bundles of items ..."
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Cited by 210 (1 self)
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Many auctions involve the sale of a variety of distinct assets. Examples are airport time slots, delivery routes and furniture. Because of complementarities (or substitution effects) between the different assets, bidders have preferences not just for particular items but for sets or bundles of items. For this reason, economic efficiency is enhanced if bidders are allowed to bid on bundles or combinations of different assets. This paper surveys the state of knowledge about the design of combinatorial auctions. Second, it uses this subject as a vehicle to convey the aspects of integer programming that are relevant for the
Combinatorial Auctions with Decreasing Marginal Utilities
, 2001
"... This paper considers combinatorial auctions among such submodular buyers. The valuations of such buyers are placed within a hierarchy of valuations that exhibit no complementarities, a hierarchy that includes also OR and XOR combinations of singleton valuations, and valuations satisfying the gross s ..."
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Cited by 202 (25 self)
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This paper considers combinatorial auctions among such submodular buyers. The valuations of such buyers are placed within a hierarchy of valuations that exhibit no complementarities, a hierarchy that includes also OR and XOR combinations of singleton valuations, and valuations satisfying the gross substitutes property. Those last valuations are shown to form a zeromeasure subset of the submodular valuations that have positive measure. While we show that the allocation problem among submodular valuations is NPhard, we present an efficient greedy 2approximation algorithm for this case and generalize it to the case of limited complementarities. No such approximation algorithm exists in a setting allowing for arbitrary complementarities. Some results about strategic aspects of combinatorial auctions among players with decreasing marginal utilities are also presented.