You Get What You Share: Incentives for a Sharing Economy
In recent years, a range of online applications have facilitated resource sharing among users, resulting in a significant increase in resource utilization. In all such applications, sharing one’s resources or skills with other agents increases social welfare. In general, each agent will look for other agents whose available resources complement hers, thereby forming natural sharing groups. In this paper, we study settings where a large population self-organizes into sharing groups. In many cases, centralized optimization approaches for creating an optimal partition of the user population are infeasible because either the central authority does not have the necessary information to compute an optimal partition, or it does not have the power to enforce a partition. Instead, the central authority puts in place an incentive structure in the form of a utility sharing method, before letting the participants form the sharing groups by themselves. We first analyze a simple equal-sharing method, which is the one most typically encountered in practice and show that it can lead to highly inefficient equilibria. We then propose a Shapley-sharing method and show that it significantly improves overall social welfare.