Game Theory and Econ

Moderator: Hoda Heidari


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Wed 21 July 6:00 - 6:20 PDT

Reserve Price Optimization for First Price Auctions in Display Advertising

Zhe Feng · S├ębastien Lahaie · Jon Schneider · Jinchao Ye

The display advertising industry has recently transitioned from second- to first-price auctions as its primary mechanism for ad allocation and pricing. In light of this, publishers need to re-evaluate and optimize their auction parameters, notably reserve prices. In this paper, we propose a gradient-based algorithm to adaptively update and optimize reserve prices based on estimates of bidders' responsiveness to experimental shocks in reserves. Our key innovation is to draw on the inherent structure of the revenue objective in order to reduce the variance of gradient estimates and improve convergence rates in both theory and practice. We show that revenue in a first-price auction can be usefully decomposed into a \emph{demand} component and a \emph{bidding} component, and introduce techniques to reduce the variance of each component. We characterize the bias-variance trade-offs of these techniques and validate the performance of our proposed algorithm through experiments on synthetic data and real display ad auctions data from a major ad exchange.

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Wed 21 July 6:20 - 6:25 PDT

Align, then memorise: the dynamics of learning with feedback alignment

Maria Refinetti · St├ęphane d'Ascoli · Ruben Ohana · Sebastian Goldt

Direct Feedback Alignment (DFA) is emerging as an efficient and biologically plausible alternative to backpropagation for training deep neural networks. Despite relying on random feedback weights for the backward pass, DFA successfully trains state-of-the-art models such as Transformers. On the other hand, it notoriously fails to train convolutional networks. An understanding of the inner workings of DFA to explain these diverging results remains elusive. Here, we propose a theory of feedback alignment algorithms. We first show that learning in shallow networks proceeds in two steps: an alignment phase, where the model adapts its weights to align the approximate gradient with the true gradient of the loss function, is followed by a memorisation phase, where the model focuses on fitting the data. This two-step process has a degeneracy breaking effect: out of all the low-loss solutions in the landscape, a net-work trained with DFA naturally converges to the solution which maximises gradient alignment. We also identify a key quantity underlying alignment in deep linear networks: the conditioning of the alignment matrices. The latter enables a detailed understanding of the impact of data structure on alignment, and suggests a simple explanation for the well-known failure of DFA to train convolutional neural networks. Numerical experiments on MNIST and CIFAR10 clearly demonstrate degeneracy breaking in deep non-linear networks and show that the align-then-memorize process occurs sequentially from the bottom layers of the network to the top.

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Wed 21 July 6:25 - 6:30 PDT

Connecting Optimal Ex-Ante Collusion in Teams to Extensive-Form Correlation: Faster Algorithms and Positive Complexity Results

Gabriele Farina · Andrea Celli · Nicola Gatti · Tuomas Sandholm

We focus on the problem of finding an optimal strategy for a team of players that faces an opponent in an imperfect-information zero-sum extensive-form game. Team members are not allowed to communicate during play but can coordinate before the game. In this setting, it is known that the best the team can do is sample a profile of potentially randomized strategies (one per player) from a joint (a.k.a. correlated) probability distribution at the beginning of the game. In this paper, we first provide new modeling results about computing such an optimal distribution by drawing a connection to a different literature on extensive-form correlation. Second, we provide an algorithm that allows one for capping the number of profiles employed in the solution. This begets an anytime algorithm by increasing the cap. We find that often a handful of well-chosen such profiles suffices to reach optimal utility for the team. This enables team members to reach coordination through a simple and understandable plan. Finally, inspired by this observation and leveraging theoretical concepts that we introduce, we develop an efficient column-generation algorithm for finding an optimal distribution for the team. We evaluate it on a suite of common benchmark games. It is three orders of magnitude faster than the prior state of the art on games that the latter can solve and it can also solve several games that were previously unsolvable.

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Wed 21 July 6:30 - 6:35 PDT

Learning to Price Against a Moving Target

Renato Leme · Balasubramanian Sivan · Yifeng Teng · Pratik Worah

In the Learning to Price setting, a seller posts prices over time with the goal of maximizing revenue while learning the buyer's valuation. This problem is very well understood when values are stationary (fixed or iid). Here we study the problem where the buyer's value is a moving target, i.e., they change over time either by a stochastic process or adversarially with bounded variation. In either case, we provide matching upper and lower bounds on the optimal revenue loss. Since the target is moving, any information learned soon becomes out-dated, which forces the algorithms to keep switching between exploring and exploiting phases.

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Wed 21 July 6:35 - 6:40 PDT

Fast Algorithms for Stackelberg Prediction Game with Least Squares Loss

Jiali Wang · He Chen · Rujun Jiang · Xudong Li · Zihao Li

The Stackelberg prediction game (SPG) has been extensively used to model the interactions between the learner and data provider in the training process of various machine learning algorithms. Particularly, SPGs played prominent roles in cybersecurity applications, such as intrusion detection, banking fraud detection, spam filtering, and malware detection. Often formulated as NP-hard bi-level optimization problems, it is generally computationally intractable to find global solutions to SPGs. As an interesting progress in this area, a special class of SPGs with the least squares loss (SPG-LS) have recently been shown polynomially solvable by a bisection method. However, in each iteration of this method, a semidefinite program (SDP) needs to be solved. The resulted high computational costs prevent its applications for large-scale problems. In contrast, we propose a novel approach that reformulates a SPG-LS as a single SDP of a similar form and the same dimension as those solved in the bisection method. Our SDP reformulation is, evidenced by our numerical experiments, orders of magnitude faster than the existing bisection method. We further show that the obtained SDP can be reduced to a second order cone program (SOCP). This allows us to provide real-time response to large-scale SPG-LS problems. Numerical results on both synthetic and real world datasets indicate that the proposed SOCP method is up to 20,000+ times faster than the state of the art.

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Wed 21 July 6:40 - 6:45 PDT

Approximate Group Fairness for Clustering

Bo Li · Lijun Li · Ankang Sun · Chenhao Wang · Yingfan Wang

We incorporate group fairness into the algorithmic centroid clustering problem, where $k$ centers are to be located to serve $n$ agents distributed in a metric space. We refine the notion of proportional fairness proposed in [Chen et al., ICML 2019] as {\em core fairness}. A $k$-clustering is in the core if no coalition containing at least $n/k$ agents can strictly decrease their total distance by deviating to a new center together. Our solution concept is motivated by the situation where agents are able to coordinate and utilities are transferable. A string of existence, hardness and approximability results is provided. Particularly, we propose two dimensions to relax core requirements: one is on the degree of distance improvement, and the other is on the size of deviating coalition. For both relaxations and their combination, we study the extent to which relaxed core fairness can be satisfied in metric spaces including line, tree and general metric space, and design approximation algorithms accordingly. We also conduct experiments on synthetic and real-world data to examine the performance of our algorithms.

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Wed 21 July 6:45 - 6:50 PDT

Incentivizing Compliance with Algorithmic Instruments

Dung Ngo · Logan Stapleton · Vasilis Syrgkanis · Steven Wu

Randomized experiments can be susceptible to selection bias due to potential non-compliance by the participants. While much of the existing work has studied compliance as a static behavior, we propose a game-theoretic model to study compliance as dynamic behavior that may change over time. In rounds, a social planner interacts with a sequence of heterogeneous agents who arrive with their unobserved private type that determines both their prior preferences across the actions (e.g., control and treatment) and their baseline rewards without taking any treatment. The planner provides each agent with a randomized recommendation that may alter their beliefs and their action selection. We develop a novel recommendation mechanism that views the planner's recommendation as a form of instrumental variable (IV) that only affects an agents' action selection, but not the observed rewards. We construct such IVs by carefully mapping the history --the interactions between the planner and the previous agents-- to a random recommendation. Even though the initial agents may be completely non-compliant, our mechanism can incentivize compliance over time, thereby enabling the estimation of the treatment effect of each treatment, and minimizing the cumulative regret of the planner whose goal is to identify the optimal treatment.

[ Paper PDF ]
Wed 21 July 6:50 - 6:55 PDT