Communication in Strategic Environments: Crawford-Sobel Meet Shannon
Mon, Oct. 19
400 Cory
Over thirty years ago, economists Vincent Crawford and Joel Sobel introduced the concepts of strategic information transmission (SIT) and cheap talk in their seminal Econometrica paper, as a way of understanding how information is strategically revealed (or not) by agents whose interests are only partially aligned. This theory has had tremendous success in explaining situations ranging from advertising to expert advice sharing, and many extensions of the original SIT model and the broader “principal- agent” class of problems have been extensively studied in the economics literature since. However, despite its name and even superficially obvious connection with information theory (IT), SIT has so far received very little attention from the IT community.
In this talk, I will present approaches to address such strategic communication problems from the lens of information and game theories. Specifically, I will focus on a strategic communication paradigm where the better-informed transmitter communicates with a receiver who makes the ultimate decision concerning both agents. While the economists have extensively studied the Nash equilibrium variant of this problem, the more relevant Stackelberg equilibrium enables the use of Shannon theoretic tools. I will present the fundamental limits of strategic compression and communication problems in the SIT context. Particularly, three problem settings will be considered, focusing on the quadratic distortion measures and jointly Gaussian variables: compression, communication, and the simple equilibrium conditions without any compression or communication. The analysis will then be extended to the receiver side information setting, where the strategic aspect of the problem yields rather surprising results regarding optimality of uncoded communication. Finally, several applications of the results within the broader context of decision theory will be presented.

Bio: Emrah Akyol received the Ph.D. degree in 2011 from the University of California at Santa Barbara. From 2006 to 2007, he held positions at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories and NTT Docomo Laboratories, both in Palo Alto, CA where he worked on topics in video compression and streaming. From 2013 to 2014, Dr. Akyol was a postdoctoral researcher in the Electrical Engineering Department, University of Southern California. Currently, Dr. Akyol is a postdoctoral research associate in the Coordinated Science Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His current research is on the interplay of networked information theory, game theory, communications, sensing and control. Dr. Akyol received the 2010 UCSB Dissertation Fellowship, the 2014 USC Postdoctoral Training Award and was an invited participant of the 2015 NSF Early-Career Investigators Workshop on CPS and Smart City.
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