Best-response dynamics out of sync: complexity and characterization


In many computational and economic models of multi-agent interaction, each participant repeatedly "best-responds" to the others' actions. Game theory research on the prominent "best-response dynamics" model typically relies on the premise that the interaction between agents is somehow synchronized. However, in many real-life settings, e.g., internet protocols and large-scale markets, the interaction between participants is asynchronous. We tackle the following important questions: (1) When are best-response dynamics guaranteed to converge to an equilibrium even under asynchrony? (2) What is the (computational and communication) complexity of verifying guaranteed convergence? We show that, in general, verifying guaranteed convergence is intractable. In fact, our main negative result establishes that this task is undecidable. We exhibit, in contrast, positive results for several environments of interest, including complete, computationally-tractable, characterizations of convergent systems. We discuss the algorithmic implications of our results, which extend beyond best-response dynamics to applications such as asynchronous Boolean circuits.