When Analysis Fails: Heuristic Mechanism Design via Self-correcting Procedures

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Abstract

Computational mechanism design (CMD) seeks to understand how to design game forms that induce desirable outcomes in multi-agent systems despite private information, self-interest and limited computational resources. CMD finds application in many settings, in the public sector for wireless spectrum and airport landing rights, to Internet advertising, to expressive sourcing in the supply chain, to allocating computational resources. In meeting the demands for CMD in these rich domains, we often need to bridge from the theory of economic mechanism design to the practice of deployable, computational mechanisms. A compelling example of this need arises in dynamic combinatorial environments, where classic analytic approaches fail and heuristic, computational approaches are required. In this talk I outline the direction of self-correcting mechanisms, which dynamically modify decisions via “output ironing” to ensure truthfulness and provide a fully computational approach to mechanism design. For an application, I suggest heuristic mechanisms for dynamic auctions in which bids arrive over time and supply may also be uncertain.