Learning Multi-Item Auctions with (or without) Samples


We provide algorithms that learn simple auctions whose revenue is approximately optimal in multi-item multi-bidder settings, for a wide range of bidder valuations including unit-demand, additive, constrained additive, XOS, and subadditive. We obtain our learning results in two settings. The first is the commonly studied setting where sample access to the bidders’ distributions over valuations is given, for both regular distributions and arbitrary distributions with bounded support. Here, our algorithms require polynomially many samples in the number of items and bidders. The second is a more general max-min learning setting that we introduce, where we are given “approximate distributions,” and we seek to compute a mechanism whose revenue is approximately optimal simultaneously for all “true distributions” that are close to the ones we were given. These results are more general in that they imply the sample-based results, and are also applicable in settings where we have no sample access to the underlying distributions but have estimated them indirectly via market research or by observation of bidder behavior in previously run, potentially non-truthful auctions. All our results hold for valuation distributions satisfying the standard (and necessary) independence-across-items property. They also generalize and improve upon recent works of Goldner and Karlin [25] and Morgenstern and Roughgarden [32], which have provided algorithms that learn approximately optimal multi-item mechanisms in more restricted settings with additive, subadditive and unit-demand valuations using sample access to distributions. We generalize these results to the complete unit-demand, additive, and XOS setting, to i.i.d. subadditive bidders, and to the max-min setting. Our results are enabled by new uniform convergence bounds for hypotheses classes under product measures. Our bounds result in exponential savings in sample complexity compared to bounds derived by bounding the VC dimension and are of independent interest.

2017 IEEE 58th Annual Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS)
Yang Cai
Yang Cai
Associate Professor