Report Number: CS-TN-99-88
Institution: Stanford University, Department of Computer Science
Title: Truth Revelation in Rapid, Approximately Efficient Combinatorial Auctions
Author: Lehmann, Daniel
Author: O'Callaghan, Liadan Ita
Author: Shoham, Yoav
Date: July 1999
Abstract: Some important classical mechanisms considered in Microeconomics and Game Theory require the solution of a difficult optimization problem. This is true of mechanisms for combinatorial auctions, which have in recent years assumed practical importance, and in particular of the gold standard for combinatorial auctions, the Generalized Vickrey Auction (GVA). Traditional analysis of these mechanisms - in particular, their truth revelation properties - assumes that the optimization problems are solved precisely. In reality, these optimization problems can usually be solved only in an approximate fashion. We investigate the impact on such mechanisms of replacing exact solutions by approximate ones. Specifically, we look at a particular greedy optimization method, which has empirically been shown to perform well. We show that the GVA payment scheme does not provide for a truth revealing mechanism. We introduce another scheme that does guarantee truthfulness for a restricted class of players. We demonstrate the latter property by identifying sufficient conditions for a combinatorial auction to be truth-revealing, conditions which have applicability beyond the specific auction studied here.