ACAC '22

17th Athens Colloquium on Algorithms and Complexity

August 25-26, 2022

National Technical University of Athens



ACAC is an annual meeting in Athens aiming to bring together researchers working in all areas of the theory of algorithms and computational complexity. It serves as a lively forum for presenting research results that are in a preliminary stage or have been recently accepted / presented in some major conference. Contributions may appear, fully or partially, in informal electronic proceedings available only to the participants (subject to authors' approval). The language of the workshop is English.


There are no registration fees. However, participants should register for administrative purposes, by filling the registration form no later than 23/8 (extended).


Participants interested in giving a presentation should register, providing a tentative title and a short abstract,in text or latex format, either in the registration form (click the "Would you like to give a talk?" checkbox), or by sending an e-mail to, no later than 15/8. The organizers will make every possible effort so that all interested participants present their work (subject to scheduling constraints).

Topics of interest

Include, but are not limited to:

  • Analysis of Algorithms, Randomized and Approximation Algorithms
  • Computational Complexity
  • Data Structures
  • Cryptography
  • Graph Theory
  • Algorithmic Game Theory
  • Computational Geometry
  • Combinatorial Optimization
  • Algorithmic Algebra and Coding Theory
  • Theoretical Aspects of Databases
  • Computational Biology
  • Quantum Computing
  • Parallel and Distributed Computing
  • Machine Learning
  • Applications of Logic


Organization of ACAC 2022 is supported by the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems of the National Techhnical University of Athens.


  • Important Dates

    Registration Deadline: 23/8
    Submission Deadline: 15/8

Organizing Committee

  • Dimitris Fotakis
  • Elias Koutsoupias
  • Evangelos Markakis
  • Aris Pagourtzis
  • Stathis Zachos
  • Vassilis Zissimopoulos

Local Arrangements

  • Ioanna Protekdikou

  • Antonis Antonopoulos
  • Pourandokht Behrouz
  • Angeliki Chalki
  • Alkis Kalavasis
  • Aggeliki Mathioudaki
  • Panagiotis Patsilinakos
  • Marianna Spyrakou


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For submission and further details please contact the organizers by email to


Would you like to give a talk?  



Thursday, August 25

09:00 - 09:30 Registration - Opening
9:30 - 10:30 Geometric random walks and volume computation    Go to Abstract
Ioannis Emiris, Athena Research Center and NKUA
This talk surveys efficient algorithms for approximating the volume of a convex polytope, which is a $\#P$-hard problem. State-of-the-art techniques are based on sampling the convex region by means of geometric random walks. We refer to recent progress, and emphasize a number of applications, including one in estimating parameters characterizing financial markets.

This is joint work with Apostolos Chalkis and Vissarion Fisikopoulos.

Short Bio:
Ioannis Emiris is President and General Director of Athena Research Center since April 2021, and Professor at National Kapodistrian University of Athens, since 2002. He obtained his BSc from Princeton University in 1989, and his PhD from UC Berkeley in 1994. He was a Tenured researcher at INRIA Sophia-Antipolis (France) from 1995 to 2002. He has been the supervisor of 14 PhD theses. His H-index is 40, and has twice earned the Distinguished Paper award at ACM International Symposium on Symbolic & Algebraic Computation (ISSAC). He was Program Committee chair of ISSAC 2011, and General co-chair of ISSAC 2020. He has been a member of the Scientific Board of Hellenic Foundation of Research & Innovation, representing Mathematics and Informatics (2018-21).
10:30 - 11:00 Coffee break
11:00 - 12:40
Operating rooms scheduling with a shared resource: a red-blue knapsack modeling approach    Go to Abstract
Federico Della Croce, DIGEP, Politecnico di Torino, Italy
Abstract: A practical operating rooms scheduling problem arising at a public hospital located in Northern Italy is considered. It consists in deriving a daily schedule for a set of operating rooms where each operating room is associated with a surgical specialty and there is a set of elective surgical interventions to be performed for the considered day. Each intervention has a priority coefficient and may or may not require the use of a shared resource. The goal is to minimize the weighted set of interventions that cannot be processed during the day and need to be postponed to the following days. We denote this problem as the Shared Resource Operating Rooms scheduling problem (SRORSP). For the case with 2 machines, we show that SRORSP is weakly NP-Hard and provide a fully polynomial time approximation scheme. For the general case with m machines, we show that SRORSP is strongly NP-Hard and provide a negative approximation result. Also, we propose and compare two exact solution approaches: the first one induced by a knapsack-like ILP formulation, the second one exploiting a column generation approach based on the above mentioned formulation.

Spectral Relaxations and Fair Densest Subgraphs    Go to Abstract
Aris Anagnostopoulos, Sapienza University of Rome
Abstract: Reducing hidden bias in the data and ensuring fairness in algorithmic data analysis has recently received significant attention. In this paper, we address the problem of identifying a densest subgraph, while ensuring that none of one binary protected attribute is disparately impacted. Unfortunately, the underlying algorithmic problem is NP-hard, even in its approximation version: approximating the densest fair subgraph with a polynomial-time algorithm is at least as hard as the densest subgraph problem of at most k vertices, for which no constant approximation algorithms are known. Despite such negative premises, we are able to provide approximation results in two important cases. In particular, we are able to prove that a suitable spectral embedding allows recovery of an almost optimal, fair, dense subgraph hidden in the input data, whenever one is present, a result that is further supported by experimental evidence. We also show a polynomial-time, $2$-approximation algorithm, whenever the underlying graph is itself fair. We finally prove that, under the small set expansion hypothesis, this result is tight for fair graphs. The above theoretical findings drive the design of heuristics, which we experimentally evaluate on a scenario based on real data, in which our aim is to strike a good balance between diversity and highly correlated items from Amazon co-purchasing graphs.

Perfect Matchings and Lower Bounds on the Computation of the Permanent    Go to Abstract
Archontia Giannopoulou, NKUA
Abstract: The study of Graph Minors theory was sparked by the proof of Kuratowski’s theorem, where he characterised all planar graphs as the class of graphs excluding two specific graphs as topological minors, as well as Wagner’s Conjecture that all classes of graphs closed under taking minors admit an exact characterisation in terms of forbidding a finite set of graphs as minors. The proof of Wagner’s Conjecture by Robertson and Seymour, extending in a series of 23 papers, gave rise to numerous structural theorems, some of which resulted in many algorithmic results and applications including a complete dichotomy result on the computational complexity of computing the permanent of symmetric matrices. In this talk we will introduce the main structural results and their algorithmic applications and discuss about their extensions on graphs admitting perfect matchings and potential applications.

Hierarchical Clustering: Upper Bounds, Lower Bounds and Some Open Questions    Go to Abstract
Vaggos Chatziafratis, University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract: Hierarchical Clustering is an important tool for unsupervised learning whose goal is to construct a hierarchical decomposition of a given dataset describing relationships at all levels of granularity simultaneously. Despite its long history, Hierarchical Clustering was underdeveloped from a theoretical perspective, partly because of a lack of suitable objectives and algorithms with guarantees. In this talk, I want to tell you about the recent progress in the area with an emphasis on connections to approximation algorithms like Sparsest Cut and Balanced Cut, some hardness of approximation results, and we shall also highlight some interesting open problems in the area.
12:40 - 12:50 Short break
12:50 - 13:50 A computational view of the Probabilistic Method    Go to Abstract
Dimitris Achlioptas, NKUA
Imagine being in front of n switches hooked up to an array of lightbulbs. Each lightbulb is connected to only a handful of switches and turns on under many, but not all, configurations of those switches. The lightbulbs are often in conflict: for a given switch, some lightbulbs turn on when the switch is up, while others turn on when it is down. Is it possible to set the switches so that all lightbulbs turn on?

When the answer to the above question is positive, then flipping a coin for how to set each switch will cause all lightbulbs to turn on with positive probability. Crucially, any multiplicative approximation of this probability, no matter how poor, suffices to establish that the answer is positive. The Lovasz Local Lemma (LLL), a cornerstone of the Probabilistic Method, is a tool for establishing such positive probability lower bounds in the face of conflict. In this talk, we will present a new, computational view of the LLL which leads to significant generalizations, including a passage from the setting of probabilities to general supermodular functions.

Short Bio:
Dimitris Achlioptas joined the Department of Informatics and Telecommunications of the University of Athens in 2010. From 1998 to 2005 he was with Microsoft Research and since 2005 with UC Santa Cruz. In theory, his expertise lies in the interaction between randomness and computation and his work has received an NSF CAREER award, a Sloan Fellowship, and an ERC Starting Grant. In practice, he likes to think about scalability questions and holds patents on topics ranging from load balancing and cache optimization to web search personalization.
13:50 - 15:00 Lunch Break
15:00 - 16:15
EM’s Convergence in Gaussian Latent Tree Models    Go to Abstract
Anthimos Vardis Kandiros, MIT
Abstract: We study the optimization landscape of the log-likelihood function and the convergence of the Expectation-Maximization (EM) algorithm in latent Gaussian tree models, i.e. tree-structured Gaussian graphical models whose leaf nodes are observable and non-leaf nodes are unobservable. We show that the unique non-trivial stationary point of the population log-likelihood is its global maximum, and establish that the expectation-maximization algorithm is guaranteed to converge to it in the single latent variable case. Our results for the landscape of the log-likelihood function in general latent tree models provide support for the extensive practical use of maximum likelihood based-methods in this setting. Our results for the EM algorithm extend an emerging line of work on obtaining global convergence guarantees for this celebrated algorithm. We show our results for the non-trivial stationary points of the log-likelihood by arguing that a certain system of polynomial equations obtained from the EM updates has a unique non-trivial solution. The global convergence of the EM algorithm follows by arguing that all trivial fixed points are higher-order saddle points.

Universal Learning Rates for Multiclass Classification    Go to Abstract
Alkis Kalavasis, NTUA
Abstract: We study the problem of multiclass classification with a bounded number of different labels $k$, in the realizable setting. We extend the traditional PAC model to distribution-dependent learning rates. In this universal learning model (Bousquet, Hanneke, Moran, van Handel and Yehudayoff, STOC'21), we provide a complete characterization of the achievable learning rates that holds for every fixed distribution. In particular, we show the following trichotomy: for any concept class, the optimal learning rate is either exponential, linear or arbitrarily slow. Additionally, we provide complexity measures of the underlying hypothesis class that characterize when these rates occur.

Label Ranking through Nonparametric Regression    Go to Abstract
Eleni Psaroudaki, NTUA
Abstract: Label Ranking (LR) corresponds to the problem of learning a hypothesis that maps features to rankings over a finite set of labels. We adopt a nonparametric regression approach to LR and obtain theoretical performance guarantees for this fundamental practical problem. We introduce a generative model for Label Ranking, in noiseless and noisy nonparametric regression settings, and provide sample complexity bounds for learning algorithms in both cases. In the noiseless setting, we study the LR problem with full rankings and provide computationally efficient algorithms using decision trees and random forests in the high-dimensional regime. In the noisy setting, we consider the more general cases of LR with incomplete and partial rankings from a statistical viewpoint and obtain sample complexity bounds using the One-Versus-One approach of multiclass classification. Finally, we complement our theoretical contributions with experiments, aiming to understand how the input regression noise affects the observed output.
16:15 - 16:45 Coffee Break
16:45 - 17:35
Prophet Inequalities for Cost Minimization    Go to Abstract
Vasilis Livanos, UIUC
Abstract: Prophet inequalities for rewards maximization are fundamental results from optimal stopping theory with several applications to mechanism design and online optimization. We study the cost minimization counterpart of the classical prophet inequality due to Krengel, Sucheston, and Garling, where one is facing a sequence of costs $X_1, X_2, ..., X_n$ in an online manner and must ''stop'' at some point and take the last cost seen. Given that the $X_i$'s are independent random variables drawn from known distributions, the goal is to devise a stopping strategy $S$ (online algorithm) that minimizes the expected cost. The best cost possible is $E[min_i X_i]$ (offline optimum), achievable only by a prophet who can see the realizations of all $X_i$'s upfront. We say that strategy $S$ is an $\alpha$-approximation to the prophet ($\alpha \ge 1$) if $E[S] \le \alpha E[min_i X_i]$. We first observe that if the $X_i$'s are not identically distributed, then no strategy can achieve a bounded approximation, no matter if the arrival order is adversarial or random, even when restricted to $n=2$ and distributions with support size at most two. This leads us to consider the case where the $X_i$'s are independent and identically distributed (I.I.D.). For the I.I.D. case, we give a complete characterization of the optimal stopping strategy. We show that it achieves a (distribution-dependent) constant-factor approximation to the prophet's cost for almost all distributions and that this constant is tight. In particular, for distributions for which the integral of the hazard rate is a polynomial $H(x)=\sum_{i=1}^k a_i x^{d_i}$, where $d_1 < ... < d_k$, the approximation factor is $\lambda(d_1)$, a decreasing function of $d_1$, and is the best possible for $H(x)=x^{d_1}$. Furthermore, when the hazard rate is monotonically increasing (i.e. the distribution is MHR), we show that this constant is at most 2, and this again is the best possible for the MHR distributions. For the classical prophet inequality for reward maximization, single-threshold strategies have been powerful enough to achieve the best possible approximation factor. Motivated by this, we analyze single-threshold strategies for the cost prophet inequality problem. We design a threshold that achieves a $O(polylog(n))$-factor approximation, where the exponent in the logarithmic factor is a distribution-dependent constant, and we show a matching lower bound. We believe that our results may be of independent interest for analyzing approximately optimal (posted price-style) mechanisms for procuring items.

Graph Connectivity With Noisy Queries    Go to Abstract
Miltiadis Stouras, EPFL
Abstract: Graph connectivity is a fundamental combinatorial optimization problem that arises in many practical applications, where usually a spanning subgraph of a network is used for its operation. However, in the real world, links may fail unexpectedly deeming the networks non-operational, while checking whether a link is damaged is costly and possibly erroneous. After an event that has damaged an arbitrary subset of the edges, the network operator must find a spanning tree of the network using non-damaged edges by making as few checks as possible. Motivated by such questions, we study the problem of finding a spanning tree in a network, when we only have access to noisy queries of the form “Does edge e exist?”. We design efficient algorithms, even when edges fail adversarially, for all possible error regimes; 2-sided error (where any answer might be erroneous), false positives (where “no” answers are always correct) and false negatives (where “yes” answers are always correct). In the first two regimes we provide efficient algorithms and give matching lower bounds for general graphs. In the False Negative case we design efficient algorithms for large interesting families of graphs (e.g. bounded treewidth, sparse). Using the previous results, we provide tight algorithms for the practically useful family of planar graphs in all error regimes.
17:35 - 17:50 Short break
17:50 - 18:50 TBA
Manolis Kellis, MIT
18:50 – 19:00 Short break
19:00 – 19:30 Lightning Talks - Open Problems

Friday, August 26

9:30 - 10:30 Two Models for Scheduling under Uncertainty
Evripidis Bampis, Sorbonne University
10:30 - 11:00 Coffee Break
11:00 - 12:15
Descriptive complexity of counting problems the decision version of which is easy    Go to Abstract
Aggeliki Chalki, NTUA
Abstract: The class #P is the class of functions that count the number of solutions to problems in NP. Since very few counting problems can be exactly computed in polynomial time (e.g. counting spanning trees), the interest of the community has turned to the complexity of approximating them. To this end the class #PE of problems in #P the decision version of which is in P, is of great significance. We focus on a subclass of #PE, namely TotP, which is the class of functions that count the total number of paths of NPTMs. TotP contains all self-reducible #PE functions and it is robust, in the sense that it has natural complete problems and it is closed under addition, multiplication and subtraction by one. We present logical characterizations of TotP and two other robust subclasses of this class building upon two seminal works in the area of descriptive complexity for counting problems (by Saluja et al. 1995 and Arenas et al. 2020). Specifically, to capture TotP, we use recursion on functions over second-order variables which, we believe, is of independent interest.

Joint work with Antonis Achilleos, Eleni Bakali, and Aris Pagourtzis

Pure-Circuit: Strong Inapproximability for PPAD    Go to Abstract
Alexandros Hollender, University of Oxford
Abstract: We introduce the Pure-Circuit problem: a new tool for proving hardness of approximation for problems in the class PPAD. We apply this new technique to show tight inapproximability results for various Nash equilibrium computation problems. Namely, the following problems are all PPAD-complete:
- computing an $\varepsilon$-Nash equilibrium in a graphical game for any $\varepsilon < 1/2$,
- computing an $\varepsilon$-well-supported Nash equilibrium in a graphical game for any $\varepsilon < 1$,
- computing an $\varepsilon$-well-supported Nash equilibrium in a polymatrix game for any $\varepsilon < 1/3$. We show that these hardness results are tight for the case of two-action games by providing matching upper bounds.

Joint work with Argyrios Deligkas, John Fearnley, and Themistoklis Melissourgos.

Almost Universally Optimal Distributed Laplacian Solvers via Low-Congestion Shortcuts    Go to Abstract
Themis Gouleakis, National University of Singapore
Abstract: In this talk, we refine the distributed Laplacian solver recently developed by Forster, Goranci, Liu, Peng, Sun, and Ye (FOCS `21) via the Ghaffari-Haeupler framework (SODA `16) of low-congestion shortcuts. Specifically, if $\varepsilon > 0$ is the error of the Laplacian solver, we obtain two main results:
- In the supported version of the CONGEST model, we establish an almost universally optimal Laplacian solver. Namely, we show that any Laplacian system on an $n$-node graph with shortcut quality $\text{SQ}(G)$ can be solved after $n^{o(1)} \text{SQ}(G) \log(1/\varepsilon)$ rounds, almost matching our lower bound of $\widetilde{\Omega}(\textrm{SQ}(G))$ rounds on any graph $G$. Our techniques also imply almost universally optimal Laplacian solvers in the full generality of CONGEST, conditional on the efficient construction of shortcuts. In particular, they unconditionally imply a novel $D n^{o(1)} \log (1/\varepsilon)$ Laplacian solver for excluded-minor graphs with hop-diameter $D$.
- Following a recent line of work in distributed algorithms, we consider a hybrid communication model which enhances CONGEST with limited global power in the form of the node-capacitated clique (NCC) model. In this model, we show the existence of a Laplacian solver with round complexity $n^{o(1)} \log(1/\varepsilon)$.
The unifying thread of these results, and our main technical contribution, is the development of nearly-optimal distributed algorithms for a novel congested generalization of the standard part-wise aggregation problem. This primitive accelerates the Laplacian solver of Forster, Goranci, Liu, Peng, Sun, and Ye, and we believe it will find further applications in the future.
12:15 - 12:30 Short break
12:30 - 13:45
Full Analysis of Nakamoto Consensus in Bounded-Delay Networks    Go to Abstract
Nikos Leonardos, NKUA
Abstract: Nakamoto consensus, arguably the most exciting development in distributed computing in the last few years, is in a sense a recasting of the traditional state-machine-replication problem in an unauthenticated setting, where furthermore parties come and go without warning. The protocol relies on a cryptographic primitive known as proof of work (PoW) which is used to throttle message passing with the PoW difficulty level being appropriately adjusted throughout the course of the protocol execution. While the original formulation was only accompanied by rudimentary analysis, significant and steady progress has been made in abstracting the protocol’s properties and providing a formal analysis under various restrictions and protocol simplifications. Still, a full analysis of the protocol that includes its target recalculation and, notably, the timestamp adjustment mechanisms which equip it to operate in its intended setting of bounded communication delays, imperfect clocks and dynamic participation, has remained open. This paper’s main result fills this final gap in terms of its analysis in the Byzantine setting presenting a proof that Nakamoto’s protocol achieves, under suitable conditions, consistency and liveness in the above setting. A number of technical tools and techniques are introduced that may be of independent interest in the analysis of blockchain protocols.

Joint work with Juan Garay and Aggelos Kiayias.

MAX-CUT for Triangle-free Graphs    Go to Abstract
Felix Clemen, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie
Abstract: A well-known conjecture by Erdős states that every triangle-free graph on n vertices can be made bipartite by removing at most $(n^2)/25$ edges. We will present progress on this conjecture in different directions. In particular, we explore a connection of this conjecture to spectral theory. Denote by $q_n(G)$ the smallest eigenvalue of the signless laplacian of a graph G. Brandt conjectured in 1997 that for regular triangle-free graphs $q_n(G)$ <= $(4/25)n$. We prove Brandt's conjecture in a strong form by confirming it for all triangle-free graphs.

This is joint work with József Balogh, Bernard Lidický, Sergey Norin and Jan Volec.

Complexity of Finding Maximum Locally Irregular Induced Subgraphs    Go to Abstract
Nikos Melissinos, Paris Dauphine
Abstract: If a graph $G$ is such that no two adjacent vertices of $G$ have the same degree, we say that $G$ is \emph{locally irregular}. In this work we introduce and study the problem of identifying a largest induced subgraph of a given graph $G$ that is locally irregular. Equivalently, given a graph $G$, find a subset $S$ of $V(G)$ with minimum order, such that by deleting the vertices of $S$ from $G$ results in a locally irregular graph; we denote with $I(G)$ the order of such a set $S$. We first examine some easy graph families, namely paths, cycles, trees, complete bipartite and complete graphs. However, we show that the decision version of the introduced problem is NP-Complete, even for restricted families of graphs, such as subcubic planar bipartite, or cubic bipartite graphs. We then show that we can not even approximate an optimal solution within a ratio of $\mathcal{O}(n^{1-\frac{1}{k}})$, where $k\geq 1$ and $n$ is the order the graph, unless $P=NP$, even when the input graph is bipartite. Then, looking for more positive results, we turn our attention towards computing $I(G)$ through the lens of parameterised complexity. In particular, we provide two algorithms that compute $I(G)$, each one considering different parameters. The first one considers the size of the solution $k$ and the maximum degree $\Delta$ of $G$ with running time $(2\Delta)^kn^{\mathcal{O}(1)}$, while the second one considers the treewidth $tw$ and $\Delta$ of $G$, and has running time $\Delta^{2tw}n^{\mathcal{O}(1)}$. Therefore, we show that the problem is FPT by both $k$ and $tw$ if the graph has bounded maximum degree $\Delta$. Since these algorithms are not FPT for graphs with unbounded maximum degree (unless we consider $\Delta + k$ or $\Delta + tw$ as the parameter), it is natural to wonder if there exists an algorithm that does not include additional parameters (other than $k$ or $tw$) in its dependency. We answer negatively, to this question, by showing that our algorithms are essentially optimal. In particular, we prove that there is no algorithm that computes $I(G)$ with dependence $f(k)n^{o(k)}$ or $f(tw)n^{o(tw)}$, unless the ETH fails.
13:45 - 15:00 Lunch break
15:00 - 16:00 Data Driven Algorithm Design: Learning to Search
Christos Tzamos, UW-Madison and NKUA
16:00 - 16:30 Coffee break
16:30 - 17:45
Constant Inapproximability for PPA    Go to Abstract
Themistoklis Melissourgos, University of Essex
Abstract: We show that $\varepsilon$-Consensus Halving is PPA-complete even when the parameter $\varepsilon$ is a constant. Consensus Halving is a fundamental fair division problem which was the first natural problem shown to be complete for the class PPA, and all subsequent PPA-completeness results for other natural problems have been obtained by reducing from it. In fact, we prove that PPA-completeness holds for any constant $\varepsilon < 1/5$. This immediately implies constant inapproximability results for all known natural PPA-complete problems, including "Necklace Splitting" , "Discrete Ham Sandwich" , two variants of the "Pizza Sharing" problem, and finding fair independent sets in cycles and paths.

Joint work with Argyrios Deligkas, John Fearnley, and Alexandros Hollender.

First-Order Algorithms for Min-Max Optimization in Geodesic Metric Spaces    Go to Abstract
Emmanouil Vasileios Vlatakis Gkaragkounis, UC Berkeley
Abstract: From optimal transport to robust dimensionality reduction, a plethora of machine learning applications can be cast into the min-max optimization problems over Riemannian manifolds. Though many min-max algorithms have been analyzed in the Euclidean setting, it has proved elusive to translate these results to the Riemannian case. Zhang et al. [2022] have recently shown that geodesic convex concave Riemannian problems always admit saddle-point solutions. Inspired by this result, we study whether a performance gap between Riemannian and optimal Euclidean space convex-concave algorithms is necessary. We answer this question in the negative-we prove that the Riemannian corrected extragradient (RCEG) method achieves last-iterate convergence at a linear rate in the geodesically strongly-convex-concave case, matching the Euclidean result. Our results also extend to the stochastic or non-smooth case where RCEG and Riemanian gradient ascent descent (RGDA) achieve near-optimal convergence rates up to factors depending on curvature of the manifold.

Efficiently Computing Nash Equilibria in Adversarial Team Markov Games    Go to Abstract
Fivos Kalogiannis, UC Irvine
Abstract: Computing Nash equilibrium policies is a central problem in multi-agent reinforcement learning that has received extensive attention both in theory and in practice. However, in light of computational intractability barriers in general-sum games, provable guarantees have been thus far either limited to fully competitive or cooperative scenarios or impose strong assumptions that are difficult to meet in most applications.
In this work, we depart from those prior results by investigating infinite-horizon adversarial team Markov games, a natural and well-motivated class of games in which a team of identically-interested players---without any explicit coordination or communication---is competing against an adversarial player. This setting allows for a unifying treatment of zero-sum Markov games and Markov potential games, and serves as a step to model more realistic strategic interactions that feature both competing and cooperative interests. Our main contribution is the first algorithm for computing stationary $\epsilon$-approximate Nash equilibria in adversarial team Markov games with complexity that is polynomial in all the natural parameters of the problem and $1/\epsilon$.
The proposed algorithm is particularly natural and practical, and it is based on performing independent policy gradient steps for each player in the team, in tandem with best-responses from the side of the adversary; in turn, the policy for the adversary is then obtained by solving the dual of a carefully constructed linear program. Our analysis leverages non-standard techniques to establish the KKT optimality conditions for a nonlinear program with nonconvex constraints, thereby leading to a natural interpretation of the induced Lagrange multipliers. Along the way, we significantly extend an important characterization of optimal policies due to Von Stengel and Koller (GEB `97) in the context of adversarial (normal-form) team games.
17:45 - 18:00 Short Break
18:00 - 19:15
Strong Approximations and Irrationality in Financial Networks with Derivatives    Go to Abstract
Stavros Ioannidis, King's College London
Abstract: Financial networks model a set of financial institutions interconnected by obligations. Recent work has introduced to this model a class of obligations called credit default swaps, a certain kind of financial derivatives. The main computational challenge for such systems is known as the clearing problem, which is to determine which firms are in default and to compute their exposure to systemic risk, technically known as their recovery rates. It is known that the recovery rates form the set of fixed points of a simple function, and that these fixed points can be irrational. We study the clearing problem from the point of view of irrationality and approximation strength. Firstly, we observe that weakly approximate solutions may contain misleading information regarding the actual financial state of an institution. On this basis, we study the complexity of finding a strongly approximate solution, and show FIXP-completeness. We then study the structural properties required for irrationality, and we give necessary conditions for irrational solutions to emerge: The presence of certain types of cycles in a financial network forces the recovery rates to take the form of roots of non-linear polynomials. In the absence of a large subclass of such cycles, we study the complexity of finding an exact fixed point, which we show to be a problem close to, albeit outside of, PPAD.

Metric Distortion Bounds under Limited Information    Go to Abstract
Panagiotis Patsilinakos, NTUA
Abstract: In this work we study the metric distortion problem in voting theory under a limited amount of ordinal information. Our primary contribution is threefold. First, we consider mechanisms which perform a sequence of pairwise comparisons between candidates. We show that a widely-popular deterministic mechanism employed in most knockout phases yields distortion $O(\log m)$ while eliciting only $m-1$ out of $\Theta(m^2)$ possible pairwise comparisons, where m represents the number of candidates. Our analysis for this mechanism leverages a powerful technical lemma recently developed by (Kempe, ΑΑΑΙ 2020a). We also provide a matching lower bound on its distortion. In contrast, we prove that any mechanism which performs fewer than $m-1$ pairwise comparisons is destined to have unbounded distortion. Moreover, we study the power of deterministic mechanisms under incomplete rankings. Most notably, when every agent provides her $k$-top preferences we show an upper bound of $6m/k+1$ on the distortion, for any $k \in \{1, 2, …, m\}$. Thus, we substantially improve over the previous bound of $12m/k$ recently established by (Kempe, AAAI 2020a, Kempe AAAI 2020b), and we come closer to matching the best-known lower bound. Finally, we are concerned with the sample complexity required to ensure near-optimal distortion with high probability. Our main contribution is to show that a random sample of $\Theta(m/\epsilon^2)$ voters suffices to guarantee distortion $3+\epsilon$ with high probability, for any sufficiently small $\epsilon>0$.. This result is based on analyzing the sensitivity of the deterministic mechanism introduced by (Gkatzelis, Halpern, and Shah, FOCS 2020). Importantly, all of our sample-complexity bounds are distribution-independent. From an experimental standpoint we present several empirical findings on real-life voting applications, comparing the scoring systems employed in practice with a mechanism explicitly minimizing (metric) distortion. Interestingly, for our case studies we find that the winner in the actual competition is typically the candidate who minimizes the distortion.

Joint work with Ioannis Anagnostides and Dimitris Fotakis

Fault-Tolerant Total Domination    Go to Abstract
Ioannis Vaxevanakis, Department of Informatics and Telecommunications, NKUA
Abstract: In \textit{total domination}, given a graph $G=(V,E)$, we seek a minimum-size set of nodes $S\subseteq V$, such that every node in $V \setminus S$ has at least one neighbor in $S$ and every node in $S$ also has at least one neighbor in $S$. We define the \textit{fault-tolerant} version of total domination, where we extend the requirement for nodes in $V \setminus S$. Any node in $V \setminus S$ must have at least $m$ neighbors in $S$. Let $\Delta$ denote the maximum degree in $G$. We prove a first $1 + \ln(\Delta + m - 1)$ approximation for fault-tolerant total domination.


ACAC will take place in the Multimedia Amphitheater of the National Technical University of Athens, located in the basement of the building of NTUA's Central Library. See the map below:

You can arrive at the Central Library by various ways:

By public transport:

The easiest way is by taking the Blue Metro line and getting off at the "ΚΑΤΕΧΑΚΗ" station. Then take the bus 242, get off at stop "ΘΥΡΩΡΕΙΟ" and walk 5 minutes towards the Central Library.
Another option is to take the bus 140 from the "ΚΑΤΕΧΑΚΗ" metro station and get off at stop "ΠΟΛΥΤΕΧΝΕΙΟΥΠΟΛΗ". Then get into the campus and walk 10 minutes towards the Central Library.

By car:

You can use this google map to get directions from Alimou-Katechaki Avenue.