On the Complexity of Nash Equilibria and Other Fixed Points (Extended Abstract)

Kousha Etessami, Mihalis Yannakakis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


We reexamine what it means to compute Nash equilibria and, more generally, what it means to compute a fixed point of a given Brouwer function, and we investigate the complexity of the associated problems. Specifically, we study the complexity of the following problem: given a finite game, &#x100000;, with 3 or more players, and given > 0, compute a vector x0 (a mixed strategy profile) that is within distance (say, in l1) of some (exact) Nash equilibrium. We show that approximation of an (actual) Nash equilibrium for games with 3 players, even to within any non-trivial constant additive factor < 1/2 in just one desired coordinate, is at least as hard as the long standing square-root sum problem, as well as more general arithmetic circuit decision problems, and thus that
even placing the approximation problem in NP would resolve a major open problem in the complexity of numerical computation. Furthermore, we show that the (exact or approximate) computation of Nash equilibria for 3 or more players is complete for the class of search problems, which we call FIXP, that can be cast as fixed point computation problems for functions represented by algebraic circuits (straight line programs) over basis {+, ,−, /,max, min}, with rational constants. We show that the linear fragment of FIXP equals PPAD.

Many problems in game theory, economics, and probability theory, can be cast as fixed point problems for such algebraic functions. We discuss several important such problems: computing the value of Shapley’s stochastic games, and the simpler games of Condon, extinction probabilities of branching processes, termination probabilities of stochastic context-free grammars, and of Recursive Markov Chains. We show that for some of them, the approximation, or even exact computation, problem can be placed in PPAD, while for others, they are at least as hard as the square-root sum and arithmetic circuit decision problems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication48th Annual IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS 2007), October 20-23, 2007, Providence, RI, USA, Proceedings
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007

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