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Inducing Equilibria via Incentives: Simultaneous Design-and-Play Ensures Global Convergence

Boyi Liu · Jiayang Li · Zhuoran Yang · Hoi-To Wai · Mingyi Hong · Yu Nie · Zhaoran Wang

Hall J (level 1) #729


To regulate a social system comprised of self-interested agents, economic incentives are often required to induce a desirable outcome. This incentive design problem naturally possesses a bilevel structure, in which a designer modifies the payoffs of the agents with incentives while anticipating the response of the agents, who play a non-cooperative game that converges to an equilibrium. The existing bilevel optimization algorithms raise a dilemma when applied to this problem: anticipating how incentives affect the agents at equilibrium requires solving the equilibrium problem repeatedly, which is computationally inefficient; bypassing the time-consuming step of equilibrium-finding can reduce the computational cost, but may lead the designer to a sub-optimal solution. To address such a dilemma, we propose a method that tackles the designer’s and agents’ problems simultaneously in a single loop. Specifically, at each iteration, both the designer and the agents only move one step. Nevertheless, we allow the designer to gradually learn the overall influence of the incentives on the agents, which guarantees optimality after convergence. The convergence rate of the proposed scheme is also established for a broad class of games.

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