Abstract:
In digital goods auctions, there is an auctioneer who sells an item with unlimited supply to a set of potential buyers, and the objective is to design truthful auction to maximize the total profit of the auctioneer. Motivated from an observation that the values of buyers for the item could be interconnected through social networks, we study digital goods auctions with positive externalities among the buyers. This defines a multi-parameter auction design problem where the private valuation of every buyer is a function of other winning buyers. The main contribution of this paper is a truthful competitive mechanism for subadditive valuations. Our competitive result is with respect to a new solution benchmark $\mathcal{F}^{(3)}$; on the other hand, we show a surprising impossibility result if comparing to the benchmark $\mathcal{F}^{(2)}$, where the latter has been used quite successfully in digital goods auctions without extenalities \cite{Goldberg2006}. Our results from $\mathcal{F}^{(2)}$ to $\mathcal{F}^{(3)}$ could be considered as the loss of optimal profit at the cost of externalities.

Abstract:
A monotone CNF formula is a Boolean formula in conjunctive normal form where each variable appears positively. We design a deterministic fully polynomial-time approximation scheme (FPTAS) for counting the number of satisfying assignments for a given monotone CNF formula when each variable appears in at most $5$ clauses. Equivalently, this is also an FPTAS for counting set covers where each set contains at most $5$ elements. If we allow variables to appear in a maximum of $6$ clauses (or sets to contain $6$ elements), it is NP-hard to approximate it. Thus, this gives a complete understanding of the approximability of counting for monotone CNF formulas. It is also an important step towards a complete characterization of the approximability for all bounded degree Boolean #CSP problems. In addition, we study the hypergraph matching problem, which arises naturally towards a complete classification of bounded degree Boolean #CSP problems, and show an FPTAS for counting 3D matchings of hypergraphs with maximum degree $4$. Our main technique is correlation decay, a powerful tool to design deterministic FPTAS for counting problems defined by local constraints among a number of variables. All previous uses of this design technique fall into two categories: each constraint involves at most two variables, such as independent set, coloring, and spin systems in general; or each variable appears in at most two constraints, such as matching, edge cover, and holant problem in general. The CNF problems studied here have more complicated structures than these problems and require new design and proof techniques. As it turns out, the technique we developed for the CNF problem also works for the hypergraph matching problem. We believe that it may also find applications in other CSP or more general counting problems.

Abstract:
For anti-ferromagnetic 2-spin systems, a beautiful connection has been established, namely that the following three notions align perfectly: the uniqueness in infinite regular trees, the decay of correlations (also known as spatial mixing), and the approximability of the partition function. The uniqueness condition implies spatial mixing, and an FPTAS for the partition function exists based on spatial mixing. On the other hand, non-uniqueness implies some long range correlation, based on which NP-hardness reductions are built. These connections for ferromagnetic 2-spin systems are much less clear, despite their similarities to anti-ferromagnetic systems. The celebrated Jerrum-Sinclair Markov chain [JS93] works even if spatial mixing or uniqueness fails. We provide some partial answers. We use $(\beta,\gamma)$ to denote the $(+,+)$ and $(-,-)$ edge interactions and $\lambda$ the external field, where $\beta\gamma>1$. If all fields satisfy $\lambda<\lambda_c$ (assuming $\beta\le\gamma$), where $\lambda_c=\left(\gamma/\beta\right)^\frac{\Delta_c+1}{2}$ and $\Delta_c=\frac{\sqrt{\beta\gamma}+1}{\sqrt{\beta\gamma}-1}$, then a weaker version of spatial mixing holds in all trees. Moreover, if $\beta\le 1$, then $\lambda<\lambda_c$ is sufficient to guarantee strong spatial mixing and FPTAS. This improves the previous best algorithm, which is an FPRAS based on Markov chains and works for $\lambda<\gamma/\beta$ [LLZ14a]. The bound $\lambda_c$ is almost optimal. When $\beta\le 1$, uniqueness holds in all infinite regular trees, if and only if $\lambda\le\lambda_c^{int}$, where $\lambda_c^{int}=\left(\gamma/\beta\right)^\frac{\lceil\Delta_c\rceil+1}{2}$. If we allow fields $\lambda>\lambda_c^{int'}$, where $\lambda_c^{int'}=\left(\gamma/\beta\right)^\frac{\lfloor\Delta_c\rfloor+2}{2}$, then approximating the partition function is #BIS-hard.

Abstract:
We study the efficiency guarantees in the simple auction environment where the auctioneer has one unit of divisible good to be distributed among a number of budget constrained agents. With budget constraints, the social welfare cannot be approximated by a better factor than the number of agents by any truthful mechanism. Thus, we follow a recent work by Dobzinski and Leme (ICALP 2014) to approximate the liquid welfare, which is the welfare of the agents each capped by her/his own budget. We design a new truthful auction with an approximation ratio of $\frac{\sqrt{5}+1}{2} \approx 1.618$, improving the best previous ratio of $2$ when the budgets for agents are public knowledge and their valuation is linear (additive). In private budget setting, we propose the first constant approximation auction with approximation ratio of $34$. Moreover, this auction works for any valuation function. Previously, only $O(\log n)$ approximation was known for linear and decreasing marginal (concave) valuations, and $O(\log^2 n)$ approximation was known for sub-additive valuations.

Abstract:
Counting the number of independent sets for a bipartite graph (#BIS) plays a crucial role in the study of approximate counting. It has been conjectured that there is no fully polynomial-time (randomized) approximation scheme (FPTAS/FPRAS) for #BIS, and it was proved that the problem for instances with a maximum degree of $6$ is already as hard as the general problem. In this paper, we obtain a surprising tractability result for a family of #BIS instances. We design a very simple deterministic fully polynomial-time approximation scheme (FPTAS) for #BIS when the maximum degree for one side is no larger than $5$. There is no restriction for the degrees on the other side, which do not even have to be bounded by a constant. Previously, FPTAS was only known for instances with a maximum degree of $5$ for both sides.

Abstract:
We study the scheduling problem on unrelated machines in the mechanism design setting. This problem was proposed and studied in the seminal paper (Nisan and Ronen 1999), where they gave a 1.75-approximation randomized truthful mechanism for the case of two machines. We improve this result by a 1.6737-approximation randomized truthful mechanism. We also generalize our result to a $0.8368m$-approximation mechanism for task scheduling with $m$ machines, which improve the previous best upper bound of $0.875m(Mu'alem and Schapira 2007).

Abstract:
We give the first deterministic fully polynomial-time approximation scheme (FPTAS) for computing the partition function of a two-state spin system on an arbitrary graph, when the parameters of the system satisfy the uniqueness condition on infinite regular trees. This condition is of physical significance and is believed to be the right boundary between approximable and inapproximable. The FPTAS is based on the correlation decay technique introduced by Bandyopadhyay and Gamarnik [SODA 06] and Weitz [STOC 06]. The classic correlation decay is defined with respect to graph distance. Although this definition has natural physical meanings, it does not directly support an FPTAS for systems on arbitrary graphs, because for graphs with unbounded degrees, the local computation that provides a desirable precision by correlation decay may take super-polynomial time. We introduce a notion of computationally efficient correlation decay, in which the correlation decay is measured in a refined metric instead of graph distance. We use a potential method to analyze the amortized behavior of this correlation decay and establish a correlation decay that guarantees an inverse-polynomial precision by polynomial-time local computation. This gives us an FPTAS for spin systems on arbitrary graphs. This new notion of correlation decay properly reflects the algorithmic aspect of the spin systems, and may be used for designing FPTAS for other counting problems.

Abstract:
Mechanism design without money has a rich history in social choice literature. Due to the strong impossibility theorem by Gibbard and Satterthwaite, exploring domains in which there exist dominant strategy mechanisms is one of the central questions in the field. We propose a general framework, called the generalized packing problem (\gpp), to study the mechanism design questions without payment. The \gpp\ possesses a rich structure and comprises a number of well-studied models as special cases, including, e.g., matroid, matching, knapsack, independent set, and the generalized assignment problem. We adopt the agenda of approximate mechanism design where the objective is to design a truthful (or strategyproof) mechanism without money that can be implemented in polynomial time and yields a good approximation to the socially optimal solution. We study several special cases of \gpp, and give constant approximation mechanisms for matroid, matching, knapsack, and the generalized assignment problem. Our result for generalized assignment problem solves an open problem proposed in \cite{DG10}. Our main technical contribution is in exploitation of the approaches from stable matching, which is a fundamental solution concept in the context of matching marketplaces, in application to mechanism design. Stable matching, while conceptually simple, provides a set of powerful tools to manage and analyze self-interested behaviors of participating agents. Our mechanism uses a stable matching algorithm as a critical component and adopts other approaches like random sampling and online mechanisms. Our work also enriches the stable matching theory with a new knapsack constrained matching model.

Abstract:
We give a complete characterization of the two-state anti-ferromagnetic spin systems which are of strong spatial mixing on general graphs. We show that a two-state anti-ferromagnetic spin system is of strong spatial mixing on all graphs of maximum degree at most \Delta if and only if the system has a unique Gibbs measure on infinite regular trees of degree up to \Delta, where \Delta can be either bounded or unbounded. As a consequence, there exists an FPTAS for the partition function of a two-state anti-ferromagnetic spin system on graphs of maximum degree at most \Delta when the uniqueness condition is satisfied on infinite regular trees of degree up to \Delta. In particular, an FPTAS exists for arbitrary graphs if the uniqueness is satisfied on all infinite regular trees. This covers as special cases all previous algorithmic results for two-state anti-ferromagnetic systems on general-structure graphs. Combining with the FPRAS for two-state ferromagnetic spin systems of Jerrum-Sinclair and Goldberg-Jerrum-Paterson, and the very recent hardness results of Sly-Sun and independently of Galanis-Stefankovic-Vigoda, this gives a complete classification, except at the phase transition boundary, of the approximability of all two-state spin systems, on either degree-bounded families of graphs or family of all graphs.

Abstract:
We study the approximability of computing the partition function for ferromagnetic two-state spin systems. The remarkable algorithm by Jerrum and Sinclair showed that there is a fully polynomial-time randomized approximation scheme (FPRAS) for the special ferromagnetic Ising model with any given uniform external field. Later, Goldberg and Jerrum proved that it is #BIS-hard for Ising model if we allow inconsistent external fields on different nodes. In contrast to these two results, we prove that for any ferromagnetic two-state spin systems except the Ising model, there exists a threshold for external fields beyond which the problem is #BIS-hard, even if the external field is uniform.