On the Interplay between Social Welfare and Tractability of Equilibria

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Ioannis Anagnostides, Tuomas Sandholm


Computational tractability and social welfare (aka. efficiency) of equilibria are two fundamental but in general orthogonal considerations in algorithmic game theory. Nevertheless, we show that when (approximate) full efficiency can be guaranteed via a smoothness argument a la Roughgarden, Nash equilibria are approachable under a family of no-regret learning algorithms, thereby enabling fast and decentralized computation. We leverage this connection to obtain new convergence results in large games---wherein the number of players $n \gg 1$---under the well-documented property of full efficiency via smoothness in the limit. Surprisingly, our framework unifies equilibrium computation in disparate classes of problems including games with vanishing strategic sensitivity and two-player zero-sum games, illuminating en route an immediate but overlooked equivalence between smoothness and a well-studied condition in the optimization literature known as the Minty property. Finally, we establish that a family of no-regret dynamics attains a welfare bound that improves over the smoothness framework while at the same time guaranteeing convergence to the set of coarse correlated equilibria. We show this by employing the clairvoyant mirror descent algortihm recently introduced by Piliouras et al.