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Non-Clairvoyant Dynamic Mechanism Design

Pingzhong Tang
Song Zuo
Proceedings of the 2018 ACM Conference on Economics and Computation, Ithaca, NY, USA, June 18-22, 2018, ACM, pp. 169


Despite their better revenue and welfare guarantees for repeated auctions, dynamic mechanisms have not been widely adopted in practice. This is partly due to the complexity of their implementation as well as their unrealistic use of forecasting for future periods. We address these shortcomings and present a new family of dynamic mechanisms that are simple and require no distributional knowledge of future periods. This paper introduces the concept of non-clairvoyance in dynamic mechanism design, which is a measure-theoretic restriction on the information that the seller is allowed to use. A dynamic mechanism is non-clairvoyant if the allocation and pricing rule at each period does not depend on the type distributions in the future periods. We develop a framework (bank account mechanisms) for characterizing, designing, and proving lower bounds for dynamic mechanisms (clairvoyant or non-clairvoyant). This framework is used to characterize the revenue extraction power of the non-clairvoyant mechanisms with respect to the mechanisms that are allowed unrestricted use of distributional knowledge.