Revenue maximization via machine learning with noisy data

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Ellen Vitercik, Tom Yan


Increasingly, copious amounts of consumer data are used to learn high-revenue mechanisms via machine learning. Existing research on mechanism design via machine learning assumes that there is a distribution over the buyers' values for the items for sale and that the learning algorithm's input is a training set sampled from this distribution. This setup makes the strong assumption that no noise is introduced during data collection. In order to help place mechanism design via machine learning on firm foundations, we investigate the extent to which this learning process is robust to noise. Optimizing revenue using noisy data is challenging because revenue functions are extremely volatile: an infinitesimal change in the buyers' values can cause a steep drop in revenue. Nonetheless, we provide guarantees when arbitrarily correlated noise is added to the training set; we only require that the noise has bounded magnitude or is sub-Gaussian. We conclude with an application of our guarantees to multi-task mechanism design, where there are multiple distributions over buyers' values and the goal is to learn a high-revenue mechanism per distribution. To our knowledge, we are the first to study mechanism design via machine learning with noisy data as well as multi-task mechanism design.