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Fairer LP-based Online Allocation

by   Guanting Chen, et al.

In this paper, we consider a Linear Program (LP)-based online resource allocation problem where a decision maker accepts or rejects incoming customer requests irrevocably in order to maximize expected revenue given limited resources. At each time, a new order/customer/bid is revealed with a request of some resource(s) and a reward. We consider a stochastic setting where all the orders are i.i.d. sampled from an unknown distribution. Such formulation gives rise to many classic applications such as the canonical (quantity-based) network revenue management problem and the Adwords problem. Instead of focusing only on regret minimization, this paper aims to provide fairness guarantees while maintaining low regret. Our definition of fairness is that a fair online algorithm should treat similar agents/customers similarly and the decision made for similar individuals should be consistent over time. We define the fair offline solution as the analytic center of the offline optimal solution set, and define cumulative unfairness as the cumulative deviation from the online solutions to the fair offline solution. We propose a fair algorithm that uses an interior-point LP solver and dynamically detects unfair resource spending. Our algorithm can control cumulative unfairness on the scale of order O(log(T)), while maintaining the regret to be bounded without dependency on T. Moreover, we partially remove the nondegeneracy assumptions used in early results in the literature. This paper only requires the nondegeneracy condition for the binding constraints, and allows the existence of multiple optimal solutions.


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