Dissertation Defense

Practical Strategic Reasoning with Applications in Market Games

Patrick Richard Jordan

Strategic reasoning is part of our everyday lives: we negotiate prices, bid in auctions, write contracts, and play games. We choose actions in these scenarios based on our preferences, and our beliefs about preferences of the other participants. Game theory provides a rich mathematical framework through which we can reason about the influence of these preferences.
Clever abstractions allow us to predict the outcome of complex agent interactions. As the scenarios we model increase in complexity, the abstractions we use to enable classical game-theoretic analysis lose fidelity. In empirical game-theoretic analysis, we construct game models using empirical sources of knowledge—such as high-fidelity simulation. However, utilizing empirical knowledge introduces a host of different computational and statistical problems.

I investigate five main research problems that focus on efficient selection, estimation, and analysis of empirical game models. I introduce a flexible modeling approach, where we may construct multiple game-theoretic models from the same set of observations. I propose a principled methodology for comparing empirical game models and a family of algorithms that select a model from a set of candidates.

I develop algorithms for normal-form games that efficiently identify formations—sets of strategies that are closed under a (correlated) best-response correspondence. This aids in problems, such as finding Nash equilibria, that are key to analysis but hard to solve. I investigate policies for sequentially determining profiles to simulate, when constrained by a budget for simulation. Efficient policies allow modelers to analyze complex scenarios by evaluating a subset of the profiles. The policies I introduce outperform the existing policies in experiments.

I establish a principled methodology for evaluating strategies given an empirical game model. I employ this methodology in two case studies of market scenarios: first, a case study in supply chain management from the perspective of a strategy designer; then, a case study in Internet ad auctions from the perspective of a mechanism designer. As part of the latter analysis, I develop an ad-auctions scenario that captures several key strategic issues in this domain for the first time.

Sponsored by

M. Wellman