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“Who is Next in Line?” On the Significance of Knowing the Arrival Order in Bayesian Online Settings


We introduce a new measure for the performance of online algorithms in Bayesian settings, where the input is drawn from a known prior, but the realizations are revealed one-by-one in an online fashion. Our new measure is called order-competitive ratio. It is defined as the worst case (over all distribution sequences) ratio between the performance of the best order-unaware and order-aware algorithms, and quantifies the loss that is incurred due to lack of knowledge of the arrival order. Despite the growing interest in the role of the arrival order on the performance of online algorithms, this loss has been overlooked thus far.
We study the order-competitive ratio in the paradigmatic prophet inequality problem, for the two common objective functions of (i) maximizing the expected value, and (ii) maximizing the probability of obtaining the largest value; and with respect to two families of algorithms, namely (i) adaptive algorithms, and (ii) single-threshold algorithms. We provide tight bounds for all four combinations, with respect to deterministic algorithms. Our analysis requires new ideas and departs from standard techniques. In particular, our adaptive algorithms inevitably go beyond single-threshold algorithms. The results with respect to the order-competitive ratio measure capture the intuition that adaptive algorithms are stronger than single-threshold ones, and may lead to a better algorithmic advice than the classical competitive ratio measure.
* This work is supported by Science and Technology Innovation 2030 –“New Generation of Artificial Intelligence” Major Project No.(2018AAA0100903), Innovation Program of Shanghai Municipal Education Commission, Program for Innovative Research Team of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (IRTSHUFE) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities. This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No. 866132), by the Israel Science Foundation (grant number 317/17), by an Amazon Research Award, and by the NSF-BSF (grant number 2020788). Tomer Ezra was partially supported by the ERC Advanced Grant 788893 AMDROMA “Algorithmic and Mechanism Design Research in Online Markets” and MIUR PRIN project ALGADIMAR “Algorithms, Games, and Digital Markets”. Zhihao Gavin Tang is supported by NSFC grant 61902233. Nick Gravin is supported by NSFC grant 62150610500.

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cover image Proceedings
Proceedings of the 2023 Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (SODA)
Pages: 3759 - 3776
Editors: Nikhil Bansal, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA and Viswanath Nagarajan, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
ISBN (Online): 978-1-61197-755-4


Published online: 16 January 2023



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