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Automated mechanism design via neural networks

Weiran Shen
Pingzhong Tang
Song Zuo
Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and MultiAgent Systems, International Foundation for Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (2019), pp. 215-223


Using AI approaches to automatically design mechanisms has been a central research mission at the interface of AI and economics [Conitzer and Sandholm, 2002]. Previous approaches that attempt to design revenue optimal auctions for the multi-dimensional settings fall short in at least one of the three aspects: 1) representation — search in a space that probably does not even contain the optimal mechanism; 2) exactness — finding a mechanism that is either not truthful or far from optimal; 3) domain dependence — need a different design for different environment settings. To resolve the three difficulties, in this paper, we put forward a unified neural network based framework that automatically learns to design revenue optimal mechanisms. Our framework consists of a mechanism network that takes an input distribution for training and outputs a mechanism, as well as a buyer network that takes a mechanism as input and output an action. Such a separation in design mitigates the difficulty to impose incentive compatibility constraints on the mechanism, by making it a rational choice of the buyer. As a result, our framework easily overcomes the previously mentioned difficulty in incorporating IC constraints and always returns exactly incentive compatible mechanisms. We then applied our framework to a number of multi-item auction design settings, for a few of which the theoretically optimal mechanisms are unknown. We then go on to theoretically prove that the mechanisms found by our framework are indeed optimal.