Equilibrium Computation and Machine Learning

Date: April 14, 2022
Time: 4:00 pm
Room: DBH 4011
Speaker: Costis Daskalakis  

Machine Learning has recently made significant advances in challenges such as speech and image recognition, automatic translation, and text generation, much of that progress being fueled by the success of gradient descent-based optimization methods in computing local optima of non-convex objectives. From robustifying machine learning models against adversarial attacks to causal inference, training generative models, and learning in strategic environments, many outstanding challenges in Machine Learning lie at its interface with Game Theory. On this front, however, gradient-descent based optimization methods have been less successful. Here, the role of single-objective optimization is played by equilibrium computation, but gradient-descent based methods commonly fail to find equilibria, and even computing local approximate equilibria has remained daunting. We shed light on these challenges through a combination of learning-theoretic, complexity-theoretic, game-theoretic and topological techniques, presenting obstacles and opportunities for Machine Learning and Game Theory going forward.


Constantinos (aka “Costis”) Daskalakis is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. He holds a Diploma in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, and a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from UC Berkeley. He works on Computation Theory and its interface with Game Theory, Economics, Probability Theory, Machine Learning and Statistics. He has resolved long-standing open problems about the computational complexity of Nash equilibrium, and the mathematical structure and computational complexity of multi-item auctions. His current work focuses on high-dimensional statistics and learning from biased, dependent, or strategic data. He has been honored with the ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award, the Kalai Prize from the Game Theory Society, the Sloan Fellowship in Computer Science, the SIAM Outstanding Paper Prize, the Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship, the Simons Investigator Award, the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize from the International Mathematical Union, the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award, and the Bodossaki Foundation Distinguished Young Scientists Award.

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