Optimization with Demand Oracles

Ashwinkumar Badanidiyuru, Shahar Dobzinski, Sigal Oren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study maximization subject to a budget constraint, where we are given a valuation function v, budget B and a cost c i for each item i. The goal is to find a set S that maximizes v(S) subject to Σ i S c i ≤ B. Special cases of this problem are well-studied problems from submodular optimization. In particular, when the costs are all equal (cardinality constraint), a classic result by Nemhauser et al. shows that the greedy algorithm provides an ee-1 approximation. Motivated by a large body of literature that utilizes demand queries to elicit the preferences of agents in economic settings, we develop algorithms that guarantee improved approximation ratios in the presence of demand oracles. We are able to break the ee-1 barrier: we present algorithms that use only polynomially many demand queries and have approximation ratios of 98+ϵ for the general problem and 98 for maximization subject to a cardinality constraint. We also consider the more general class of subadditive valuations. Here, if the valuations can only be accessed by value queries, only trivial approximation ratios can be guaranteed. In contrast, we present algorithms that use demand queries and obtain an approximation ratio of 2 + ϵ for the general problem and 2 for maximization subject to a cardinality constraint. We guarantee these approximation ratios even when the valuations are non-monotone. We show that these ratios are essentially optimal, in the sense that for any constant ϵ> 0 , obtaining an approximation ratio of 2 - ϵ requires exponentially many demand queries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2244-2269
Number of pages26
Issue number6
Early online date11 Dec 2018
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Approximation algorithms
  • Demand queries
  • Submodular optimization

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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