Delegated Stochastic Probing

Authors Curtis Bechtel , Shaddin Dughmi

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Curtis Bechtel
  • Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
Shaddin Dughmi
  • Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA

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Curtis Bechtel and Shaddin Dughmi. Delegated Stochastic Probing. In 12th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2021). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 185, pp. 37:1-37:19, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2021)


Delegation covers a broad class of problems in which a principal doesn't have the resources or expertise necessary to complete a task by themselves, so they delegate the task to an agent whose interests may not be aligned with their own. Stochastic probing describes problems in which we are tasked with maximizing expected utility by "probing" known distributions for acceptable solutions subject to certain constraints. In this work, we combine the concepts of delegation and stochastic probing into a single mechanism design framework which we term delegated stochastic probing. We study how much a principal loses by delegating a stochastic probing problem, compared to their utility in the non-delegated solution. Our model and results are heavily inspired by the work of Kleinberg and Kleinberg in "Delegated Search Approximates Efficient Search." Building on their work, we show that there exists a connection between delegated stochastic probing and generalized prophet inequalities, which provides us with constant-factor deterministic mechanisms for a large class of delegated stochastic probing problems. We also explore randomized mechanisms in a simple delegated probing setting, and show that they outperform deterministic mechanisms in some instances but not in the worst case.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Algorithmic mechanism design
  • Delegation
  • Mechanism Design
  • Algorithmic Game Theory


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