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Victor-Alexandru Darvariu, Stephen Hailes, Mirco Musolesi
Public goods games represent insightful settings for studying incentives for individual agents to make contributions that, while costly for each of them, benefit the wider society. In this work, we adopt the perspective of a central planner with a global view of a network of self-interested agents and the goal of maximizing some desired property in the context of a best-shot public goods game. Existing algorithms for this known NP-complete problem find solutions that are sub-optimal and cannot optimize for criteria other than social welfare.In order to efficiently solve public goods games, our proposed method directly exploits the correspondence between equilibria and the Maximal Independent Set (mIS) structural property of graphs. In particular, we define a Markov Decision Process which incrementally generates an mIS, and adopt a planning method to search for equilibria, outperforming existing methods. Furthermore, we devise a graph imitation learning technique that uses demonstrations of the search to obtain a graph neural network parametrized policy which quickly generalizes to unseen game instances. Our evaluation results show that this policy is able to reach 99.5\% of the performance of the planning method while being three orders of magnitude faster to evaluate on the largest graphs tested. The methods presented in this work can be applied to a large class of public goods games of potentially high societal impact and more broadly to other graph combinatorial optimization problems.