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Universal and Tight Online Algorithms for Generalized-Mean Welfare

09/02/2021
by   Siddharth Barman, et al.
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We study fair and efficient allocation of divisible goods, in an online manner, among n agents. The goods arrive online in a sequence of T time periods. The agents' values for a good are revealed only after its arrival, and the online algorithm needs to fractionally allocate the good, immediately and irrevocably, among the agents. Towards a unifying treatment of fairness and economic efficiency objectives, we develop an algorithmic framework for finding online allocations to maximize the generalized mean of the values received by the agents. In particular, working with the assumption that each agent's value for the grand bundle of goods is appropriately scaled, we address online maximization of p-mean welfare. Parameterized by an exponent term p ∈ (-∞, 1], these means encapsulate a range of welfare functions, including social welfare (p=1), egalitarian welfare (p → -∞), and Nash social welfare (p → 0). We present a simple algorithmic template that takes a threshold as input and, with judicious choices for this threshold, leads to both universal and tailored competitive guarantees. First, we show that one can compute online a single allocation that O (√(n)log n)-approximates the optimal p-mean welfare for all p≤ 1. The existence of such a universal allocation is interesting in and of itself. Moreover, this universal guarantee achieves essentially tight competitive ratios for specific values of p. Next, we obtain improved competitive ratios for different ranges of p by executing our algorithm with p-specific thresholds, e.g., we provide O(log ^3 n)-competitive ratio for all p∈ (-1/log 2n,1). We complement our positive results by establishing lower bounds to show that our guarantees are essentially tight for a wide range of the exponent parameter.

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