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Johan Brauer : The Stabilisation of Equilibria in Evolutionary Game Dynamics through Mutation

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The multi-population replicator dynamics (RD) can be considered a dynamic approach to the study of multi-player games, where it was shown to be related to Cross-learning, as well as of systems of co-evolving populations. However, not all of its equilibria are Nash equilibria (NE) of the underlying game, and neither convergence to an NE nor convergence in general are guaranteed. Although interior equilibria are guaranteed to be NE, no interior equilibrium can be asymptotically stable in the multi-population RD, resulting, e.g., in cyclic orbits around a single interior NE. We report on our investigation of a new notion of equilibria of RD, called mutation limits, which is based on the inclusion of a naturally arising, simple form of mutation, but is invariant under the specific choice of mutation parameters. We prove the existence of such mutation limits for a large range of games, and consider an interesting subclass, that of attracting mutation limits. Attracting mutation limits are approximated by asymptotically stable equilibria of the (mutation-)perturbed RD, and hence, offer an approximate dynamic solution of the underlying game, especially if the original dynamic has no asymptotically stable equilibria. Therefore, the presence of mutation will indeed stabilise the system in certain cases and make attracting mutation limits near-attainable. Furthermore, the relevance of attracting mutation limits as a game theoretic equilibrium concept is emphasised by the relation of (mutation-)perturbed RD to the Q-learning algorithm in the context of multi-agent reinforcement learning. However, in contrast to the guaranteed existence of mutation limits, attracting mutation limits do not exist in all games, raising the question of their characterization.

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