Constantinos Daskalakis

    Associate Professor, EECS, MIT

(image by Sarah A. King for this article)

I am an Associate Professor at MIT's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department, a member of CSAIL, and affiliated with LIDS and ORC.

Prior to joining MIT's faculty I was a postdoctoral researcher in Jennifer Chayes's group at Microsoft Research, New England. And before that I spent four wonderful years at UC Berkeley's theory of computation group advised by Christos Papadimitriou. I did my undergraduate studies in Greece at the National Technical University of Athens.

MIT's Theory of Computation Colloquium.

Short Bio

Current students:
Christos Tzamos, Gautam Kamath, Manolis Zampetakis, Nishanth Dikkala.

Graduated students:
Yang Cai (MIT → UC Berkeley (postdoc) → McGill (assistant professor))
Matt Weinberg (MIT → Princeton (postdoc))
Alan Deckelbaum (MIT → Renaissance Technologies).


   2015 Research and Development Award by the Vatican Giuseppe Sciacca Foundation

   2013 Best Paper and Best Student Paper Award in the 14th Conference on Electronic Commerce

   2012 Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship

   2012 Best Student Paper Award in the 13th Conference on Electronic Commerce

   2011 X-Window Consortium Chair

   2011 Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching

   2011 SIAM Outstanding Paper Prize

   2010 Sloan Research Fellowship in Computer Science

   2009 NSF Career Award

   2008 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award

   2008 Game Theory and Computer Science Prize, awarded by the Game Theory Society

   2007 Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship

   2006 Best Paper Award in the 7th Conference on Electronic Commerce

Articles from Popular Press/Public Lectures:

   Technology Review: Gaming the System

   MIT news piece on auctions

   MIT news piece on complexity of equilibria


   2011 TEDx Athens (in Greek)

   Searching for Equilibrium at Gazarte Athens, January 2012 (in Greek)

   Extroverted Computer Science at Gazarte Athens, January 2013 (in Greek)

   From Information to Informatics at Hub Science, January 2014 (in Greek)

   Mathematics: A Quest for Truth at New York Public Library, May 2013 (podcast in English)

Research: My research focus is on algorithmic game theory, computational biology and applied probability. Publications. (all online)

Complexity of Equilibria: My Ph.D. research examines whether rational, self-interested individuals can arrive, through their interactions, at a state where no single one of them would be better off switching strategies unless others did so as well. Such a state is called a Nash equilibrium, in honor of John Nash, who showed that such a state always exists, and is traditionally used in Game Theory as a mathematical way of predicting the behavior of rational, strategic individuals in situations of conflict. Together with Paul Goldberg and Christos Papadimitriou we show that in complex systems Nash equilibrium can be computationally unachievable. This implies that it is not always relevant and/or justifiable to study the Nash equilibria of a system. Here is a simplified exposition of our article that we wrote for CACM's February 2009 Issue.

I also wrote a survey article on the complexity of Nash equilibria, which appeared in a Computer Science Review special volume dedicated to Christos Papadimitriou's work.

Finally, I recently showed that even arriving at an approximate Nash equilibrium can be computationally intractable.

My dissertation was awarded the 2008 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award. Together with Paul Goldberg and Christos Papadimitriou, we also received the 2008 Game Theory and Computer Science Prize. The prize is awarded once every four years at the World Congress of the Game Theory Society. The citation for our paper reads in part as follows: "This paper made key conceptual and technical contributions in an illustrious line of work on the complexity of computing Nash equilibrium. It also highlights the necessity of constructing practical algorithms that compute equilibria efficiently on important subclasses of games." Here is a blog post from the congress by Paul. In 2011, our same paper was awarded the 2011 SIAM Outstanding Paper Prize.

SLIDES and VIDEO presentatation on Nash equilibrium complexity.

Bayesian Mechanism Design: Mechanism design in the presence of Bayesian priors has received much attention in Economics, focusing among other problems on generalizing Myerson's celebrated auction to multi-item settings. Nevertheless, only special cases have been solved, with a general solution remaining elusive. More recently, there has been an explosion of algorithmic work on the problem, focusing on computing optimal auctions, and understanding their structure. With Yang Cai and Matt Weinberg we provide a general algorithmic framework for computing optimal mechanisms in arbitrary settings (general objectives, types, allocation constraints). Our framework allows generalizing Myerson's auction to selling multiple items, and designing approximately optimal mechanisms for non-linear objectives such as makespan minimization with strategic machines.

SLIDES on Bayesian Mechanism Design from our EC 2014 tutorial.

Recent Surveys:


Program Committees: SODA 2008, EC 2009, SAGT 2009, WAOA 2009, STOC 2010, ICALP 2010, EC 2011, EC 2012, EC 2013, STOC 2013, ITCS 2014, EC 2014, ITCS 2015, STOC 2015, EC 2015, EC 2016

Plenary Talks/Tutorials:

The Satrapy

What a misfortune, although you are made
for fine and great works
this unjust fate of yours always
denies you encouragement and success;
that base customs should block you;
and pettiness and indifference.
And how terrible the day when you yield
(the day when you give up and yield),
and you leave on foot for Susa,
and you go to the monarch Artaxerxes
who favorably places you in his court,
and offers you satrapies and the like.
And you accept them with despair
these things that you do not want.
Your soul seeks other things, weeps for other things;
the praise of the public and the Sophists,
the hard-won and inestimable Well Done;
the Agora, the Theater, and the Laurels.
How can Artaxerxes give you these,
where will you find these in a satrapy;
and what life can you live without these.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1910).