Improved Truthful Mechanisms for Combinatorial Auctions with Submodular Bidders

Authors: Sepehr Assadi, Sahil Singla
Conference: The 60th Annual IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS 2019)
This paper makes an (almost) exponential progress on one of the most longstanding open problems of algorithmic mechanism design literature. Our follow-up work in [AKS21] further simplifies and generalize it (from submodular to subadditive valuations).
Abstract: A longstanding open problem in Algorithmic Mechanism Design is to design computationally efficient truthful mechanisms for (approximately) maximizing welfare in combinatorial auctions with submodular bidders. The first such mechanism was obtained by Dobzinski, Nisan, and Schapira [STOC’06] who gave an O(log^2m)-approximation where m is the number of items. This problem has been studied extensively since, culminating in an O(√log m)-approximation mechanism by Dobzinski [STOC’16].

We present a computationally-efficient truthful mechanism with approximation ratio that improves upon the state-of-the-art by an exponential factor. In particular, our mechanism achieves an O((log log m)^3)-approximation in expectation, uses only O(n) demand queries, and has universal truthfulness guarantee. This settles an open question of Dobzinski on whether Θ(√log m) is the best approximation ratio in this setting in negative.
Conference version: [PDF]
Full version: [arXiv]
Streaming video: [video] (Sahil @Northwestern Theory Seminar)
Short research note: [SIGecom Exchanges]
BibTex: [DBLP]