Wellman, M. P.

Decentralized Supply Chain Formation: A Market Protocol and Competitive Equilibrium Analysis

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Supply chain formation is the process of determining the structure and terms of exchange relationships to enable a multilevel, multiagent production activity. We present a simple model of supply chains, highlighting two characteristic features: hierarchical subtask decomposition, and resource contention. To decentralize the formation process, we introduce a market price system over the resources produced along the chain. In a competitive equilibrium for this system, agents choose locally optimal allocations with respect to prices, and outcomes are optimal overall. To determine prices, we define a market protocol based on distributed, progressive auctions, and myopic, non-strategic agent bidding policies. In the presence of resource contention, this protocol produces better solutions than the greedy protocols common in the artificial intelligence and multiagent systems literature. The protocol often converges to high-value supply chains, and when competitive equilibria exist, typically to approximate competitive equilibria. However, complementarities in agent production technologies can cause the protocol to wastefully allocate inputs to agents that do not produce their outputs. A subsequent decommitment phase recovers a significant fraction of the lost surplus.

Price Prediction in a Trading Agent Competition

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

The 2002 Trading Agent Competition (TAC) presented a challenging market game in the domain of travel shopping. One of the pivotal issues in this domain is uncertainty about hotel prices, which have a significant influence on the relative cost of alternative trip schedules. Thus, virtually all participants employ some method for predicting hotel prices. We survey approaches employed in the tournament, finding that agents apply an interesting diversity of techniques, taking into account differing sources of evidence bearing on prices. Based on data provided by entrants on their agents' actual predictions in the TAC-02 finals and semifinals, we analyze the relative efficacy of these approaches. The results show that taking into account game-specific information about flight prices is a major distinguishing factor. Machine learning methods effectively induce the relationship between flight and hotel prices from game data, and a purely analytical approach based on competitive equilibrium analysis achieves equal accuracy with no historical data. Employing a new measure of prediction quality, we relate absolute accuracy to bottom-line performance in the game.