About the Event
In many multi-agent systems we find information brokers or information technologies aiming to provide the agents with more information or reduce the cost of acquiring new information. In this talk I will show that better information can hurt: the presence of an information provider, even if the use of her services is optional, can degrade both individual agents' utilities and overall social welfare. The talk will focus on two specific domains: auctions (where the provided information relates to the common value of the auctioned item) and cooperative information gathering (where costly information is shared between the agents). For the first, I'll show that with the information provider in the market, in conflict with classic auction theory, the auctioneer may prefer to limit the number of bidders that participate in the auction and similarly bidders may prefer to have greater competition. Also, bidders' unawareness of the auctioneer's option to purchase the information does not necessarily play into the hands of the auctioneer and, similarly, bidders may sometimes benefit from not knowing that the auctioneer has the option to purchase such information. For cooperative information gathering I'll present three methods for improving overall and individual performance, all based on limiting and constraining information sharing. Along the talk we will also answer questions such as: why bars use dim lights and loud music; ways that charities could benefit from group buying; and why it makes sense to pay someone to over-price information she wants to sell you.