Prophet secretary for combinatorial auctions and matroids

Soheil Ehsani, Mohammadtaghi Hajiaghayi, Thomas Kesselheim, Sahil Singla

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

65 Scopus citations


The secretary and the prophet inequality problems are central to the field of Stopping Theory. Recently, there has been a lot of work in generalizing these models to multiple items because of their applications in mechanism design. The most important of these generalizations are to matroids and to combinatorial auctions (extends bipartite matching). Kleinberg-Weinberg [33] and Feldman et al. [17] show that for adversarial arrival order of random variables the optimal prophet inequalities give a 1=2-approximation. For many settings, however, it's conceivable that the arrival order is chosen uniformly at random, akin to the secretary problem. For such a random arrival model, we improve upon the 1=2approximation and obtain (1-1=e)-approximation prophet inequalities for both matroids and combinatorial auctions. This also gives improvements to the results of Yan [45] and Esfandiari et al. [15] who worked in the special cases where we can fully control the arrival order or when there is only a single item. Our techniques are threshold based. We convert our discrete problem into a continuous setting and then give a generic template on how to dynamically adjust these thresholds to lower bound the expected total welfare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication29th Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, SODA 2018
EditorsArtur Czumaj
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781611975031
StatePublished - 2018
Event29th Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, SODA 2018 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Jan 7 2018Jan 10 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms


Other29th Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, SODA 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • General Mathematics


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