Braess’s Paradox, Fibonacci Numbers, and Exponential Inapproximability
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We give the first analyses in multicommodity networks of both the worst-case severity of Braess’s Paradox and the price of anarchy of selfish routing with respect to the maximum latency. Our first main result is a construction of an infinite family of two-commodity networks, related to the Fibonacci numbers, in which both of these quantities grow exponentially with the size of the network. This construction has wide implications, and demonstrates that numerous existing analyses of selfish routing in single-commodity networks have no analogues in multicommodity networks, even in those with only two commodities. This dichotomy between single- and two-commodity networks is arguably quite unexpected, given the negligible dependence on the number of commodities of previous work on selfish routing.
Our second main result is an exponential upper bound on the worst-possible severity of Braess’s Paradox and on the price of anarchy for the maximum latency, which essentially matches the lower bound when the number of commodities is constant.
Finally, we use our family of two-commodity networks to exhibit a natural network design problem with intrinsically exponential (in)approximability: while there is a polynomial-time algorithm with an exponential approximation ratio, subexponential approximation is unachievable in polynomial time (assuming P ≠ NP).
KeywordsNash Equilibrium Latency Function Average Latency Network Design Problem Maximum Latency
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