Resolving the Optimal Metric Distortion Conjecture

04/16/2020 ∙ by Vasilis Gkatzelis, et al. ∙ 0

We study the following metric distortion problem: there are two finite sets of points, V and C, that lie in the same metric space, and our goal is to choose a point in C whose total distance from the points in V is as small as possible. However, rather than having access to the underlying distance metric, we only know, for each point in V , a ranking of its distances to the points in C. We propose algorithms that choose a point in C using only these rankings as input and we provide bounds on their distortion (worst-case approximation ratio). A prominent motivation for this problem comes from voting theory, where V represents a set of voters, C represents a set of candidates, and the rankings correspond to ordinal preferences of the voters. A major conjecture in this framework is that the optimal deterministic algorithm has distortion 3. We resolve this conjecture by providing a polynomial-time algorithm that achieves distortion 3, matching a known lower bound. We do so by proving a novel lemma about matching rankings of candidates to candidates, which we refer to as the ranking-matching lemma. This lemma induces a family of novel algorithms, which may be of independent interest, and we show that a special algorithm in this family achieves distortion 3. We also provide more refined, parameterized, bounds using the notion of α-decisiveness, which quantifies the extent to which a voter may prefer her top choice relative to all others. Finally, we introduce a new randomized algorithm with improved distortion compared to known results, and also provide improved lower bounds on the distortion of all deterministic and randomized algorithms.

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