AAAI Publications, Thirtieth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence

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Blind, Greedy, and Random: Algorithms for Matching and Clustering Using Only Ordinal Information
Elliot Anshelevich, Shreyas Sekar

Last modified: 2016-02-21


We study the Maximum Weighted Matching problem in a partial information setting where the agents' utilities for being matched to other agents are hidden and the mechanism only has access to ordinal preference information. Our model is motivated by the fact that in many settings, agents cannot express the numerical values of their utility for different outcomes, but are still able to rank the outcomes in their order of preference. Specifically, we study problems where the ground truth exists in the form of a weighted graph, and look to design algorithms that approximate the true optimum matching using only the preference orderings for each agent (induced by the hidden weights) as input. If no restrictions are placed on the weights, then one cannot hope to do better than the simple greedy algorithm, which yields a half optimal matching. Perhaps surprisingly, we show that by imposing a little structure on the weights, we can improve upon the trivial algorithm significantly: we design a 1.6-approximation algorithm for instances where the hidden weights obey the metric inequality. Our algorithm is obtained using a simple but powerful framework that allows us to combine greedy and random techniques in unconventional ways. These results are the first non-trivial ordinal approximation algorithms for such problems, and indicate that we can design robust matchings even when we are agnostic to the precise agent utilities.


Ordinal Information, Matching, Approximation Algorithm

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