Simplicity and Optimality in Multi-Item Auctions
January 19, 2022 (Zoom - See email or contact organizers for link)

Abstract: Designing mechanisms to maximize revenue is a fundamental problem in mathematical economics and has various applications like online ad auctions and spectrum auctions. Unfortunately, optimal auctions for selling multiple items can be unreasonably complex and computationally intractable. In this talk, we consider a revenue-maximizing seller with n items facing a single unit-demand buyer. Our work shows that simple mechanisms can achieve almost optimal revenue. We approached the tradeoffs of simplicity formally through the lens of computation and menu size. Our main result provides a mechanism that gets a $(1 − \epsilon)$-approximation to the optimal revenue in time quasi-polynomial in n and has quasi polynomial (symmetric) menu complexity.