Tim Roughgarden† June 21, 2008
Abstract We give a brief and biased survey of the past, present, and future of research on the interface of theoretical computer science and game theory.
By the end of the 20th century, the widespread adoption of the Internet and the emergence of the Web had changed fundamentally society’s relationship with computers. The primary role of a computer evolved from a stand-alone, well-understood machine for executing software to a conduit for global communication, content-dissemination, and commerce. Two consequences of this phase transition were inevitable: theoretical computer science would respond by formulating novel problems, goals, and design and analysis techniques relevant for Internet applications; and game theory, with its deep and beautiful study of interaction between competing or cooperating individuals, would play a crucial role. Research on the interface of theoretical computer science and game theory, an area now known as algorithmic game theory (AGT), has exploded phenomenally over the past ten years. The central research themes in AGT diﬀer from those in classical microeconomics and game theory in important, albeit predictable, respects. Firstly in application areas: Internet-like networks and non-traditional auctions (such as digital goods and search auctions) motivate much of the work in AGT. Secondly in its quantitative engineering approach: AGT research typically models applications via concrete optimization problems and seeks optimal solutions, impossibility results, upper and lower bounds on feasible approximation guarantees, and so on. Finally, AGT usually adopts reasonable (e.g., polynomial-time) computational complexity as a binding constraint on the feasible behavior of system designers and participants. These themes, which have played only a peripheral role in traditional game theory, give AGT its distinct character and relevance. AGT also connects... [continues]
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