Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bob Aumann remembers John Nash

From Ynet...

John Nash, a teacher and a mentor

Nash was definitely one of the giants of game theory, writes Israeli Nobel laureate Yisrael Aumann, and the science world will miss him.
Prof. Yisrael Aumann
Published: 05.25.15, 19:15 / Israel Opinion
I am so sorry to hear of John Nash's death. I have known John for more than 60 years.

I met him in 1953, when he was a young lecturer who had just started teaching at the university and I was coming to the end of my doctorate. He was the one who first introduced me to game theory. He is my first mentor and teacher on the subject.

John Nash. A giant in his field.  (Photo: Peter Badge / Typos 1)
John Nash. A giant in his field. (Photo: Peter Badge / Typos 1)

The truth is that I didn't give the field much thought at the time because I was busy with pure mathematics. Later, however, when I moved to a performance studies consulting firm, I encountered a difficult problem and then I realized the importance of game theory – and I recalled my conversations with Nash.

John Nash is definitely one of the giants of game theory, which is an important tool in economics and numerous other areas. He invented it, the key concept known as "equilibrium strategy;" and not only did he found the field, but he was also a game-theory giant. And he was also one of the first to receive a Nobel Prize for game theory. It was in 1994, and he shared it with two others. I am shocked to hear of his death.

In recent years, we met at least once a year at international conferences. He knew a lot – not only about mathematics but about everything, and you could talk to him about what is happening in the world.

Nash came to Israel in 1995, on my 65th birthday, which took place at the Tower of David in the form of a celebration and conference. It was a year after he received the Nobel Prize in Economics. The science world and I will certainly miss him.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Claudia Goldin interview on the history of labor force participation by women, among other things

The interview is in Econ Focus, published by the Richmond Fed: Claudia Goldin

Here's one paragraph:
"EF: What changed in society that allowed this revolution to occur?
Goldin: One of the most important changes was the appearance of reliable, female-controlled birth control. The pill lowered the cost to women of making long-term career investments. Before reliable birth control, a woman faced a nontrivial probability of having her career derailed by an unplanned pregnancy — or she had to pay the penalty of abstinence. The lack of highly reliable birth control also meant a set of institutions developed around dating and sex to create commitment: Couples would "go steady," then they would get "pinned," then they would get engaged. If you're pinned or engaged when you're 19 or 20 years old, you're not going to wait until you're 28 to get married. So a lot of women got married within a year or two of graduating college. That meant women who pursued a career also paid a penalty in the marriage market. But the pill made it possible for women who were "on the pill" to delay marriage, and that, in turn, created a "thicker" marriage market for all women to marry later and further lowered the cost to women of investing in a career."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

John Nash: 1928-2015. RIP

John and Alicia Nash have died in a car accident.

Here's the news story: Famed Princeton mathematician John Nash, wife killed in taxi crash

Here's the NY Times obituary: John F. Nash Jr., Mathematician Whose Life Story Inspired ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ Dies at 86

Same sex marriage becomes legal in Ireland, by popular vote

Ancient repugnances can be swept away in a matter of decades, and now it's Ireland's turn. The NY Times has the story: Ireland Votes to Approve Gay Marriage, Putting Country in Vanguard

 "Ireland has become the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, sweeping aside the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory Saturday for the gay rights movement and placing the country at the vanguard of social change.

"With ballots from 34 out of the 43 voting areas counted, the vote was almost two to one in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. All but one of the districts that were counted voted yes, and it appeared to be statistically impossible for opposition votes to overcome the ayes.

"Turnout was large — more than 60 percent of the 3.2 million people eligible to vote cast ballots. Government officials, advocates and even those who had argued against the measure said that the outcome was a resounding endorsement of the constitutional amendment.

"Not long ago, the vote would have been unthinkable. Ireland decriminalized homosexuality only in 1993, the church dominates the education system and abortion remains illegal except when a mother’s life is at risk. But the influence of the church has waned amid scandals in recent years, while attitudes, particularly among the young, have shifted.
Continue reading the main story

When Same-Sex Marriages Became Legal

About 20 countries have already legalized same-sex marriages. Here is a list of when each did.
The vote is also the latest chapter in a sharpening global cultural clash. Same-sex marriage is surging in the West, legal in 19 nations before the Irish vote and 37 American states, but almost always because of legislative or legal action. At the same time, gay rights are under renewed attack in Russia, in parts of Africa and from Islamic extremists, most notably the Islamic State.
The results in Ireland, announced on Saturday, showed wide and deep support for a measure that had dominated public discourse and dinner-table conversation, particularly in the months before the lead-up to the vote on Friday. Supporters celebrated in gatherings and on the streets, with the rainbow colors of the gay rights movement and Yes vote buttons conspicuously on display.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ali Hortaçsu talks to the Turkish American Scientists & Scholars Association about market design

A Conversation with Ali Hortaçsu

"Our guest on this issue of The Bridge is Ali Hortacsu, Ralph and Mary Otis Isham Professor of Economics, University of Chicago.

The Bridge : Could you please give us a brief summary of your background?

Ali Hortaçsu : I was born in Istanbul in 1974 and grew up near Boğaziçi University where my parents are (emeritus) professors of chemical engineering. I went to Robert College for secondary school, and attended Stanford University, where I got my B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering and my Ph.D. in Economics. I joined the University of Chicago Department of Economics as an assistant professor in 2001. I am currently the Ralph and Mary Otis Isham Professor of Economics there.

T.B. :  Could you also summarize your studies/research?  

A. H. : Most of my research falls under the rubric of "market design." Most economists believe markets are a wonderful method of allocating scarce resources and facilitating exchange. However, we know of many conditions under which markets can fail miserably; especially when market participants have incentives to strategize around the stated rules of the marketplace. What is needed, then, is a well-thought out re-writing of the "rules of the game" that takes into account the fact that many market participants are highly rational, strategic actors who will understand and game the system. How should we go about designing such rules? There is now an elegant and extremely well established body of theoretical knowledge on this topic, starting e.g. with the work of my Nobel winning colleague Roger Myerson. What we have learned over time, however, is that theory does not always give sharp answers as to what to do; the specific parameters of the particular system we are analyzing matters a lot. What I have tried to advance in my research is a "data driven" approach to market design, in which we utilize very detailed data from existing markets, estimate the relevant parameters using econometric/statistical methods, and simulate the parametrized behavior under a slew of alternative market rules to arrive at improved market designs. My collaborators and I have utilized this framework to help guide the design of many real world markets, including electricity markets, financial markets, online auctions, and even Internet matchmaking sites. I am also happy to see the econometric and simulation methods I have developed being used in many exciting applications in this domain.

T.B. :   Where do you see studies of your area of specialty in Turkey? What are your suggestions to improve the research in Turkey in this area?

A. H. :  "Market design" has a long and distinguished history in Turkey, especially with the theoretical work of Murat Sertel, Ahmet Alkan, and Semih Koray. Tayfun Sönmez and Utku Ünver, who are also pioneers in this area, did much of their trailblazing research while they were colleagues at Koç University. Although the tradition of market design research is very strong in Turkey, I think improving collaborations between theoretical researchers and market operators would be very beneficial from both the applied and scientific point of views."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mohammad Akbarpour defends his dissertation

We welcomed a new market designer into the profession today:
Dave Kreps, Paul Milgrom, MOHAMMAD AKBARPOUR, Al Roth, Matt Jackson, Amin Saberi
I can't help noticing that most of the facial hair in this picture is gray and belongs to faculty members, while most of the head hair belongs to Mohammad:)

Welcome to the club, Mohammad!

The market for early book reviews: commercial, crowd sourced, and bootleg

My book, Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design isn't due to be published until June 2.  But there are already some reviews, from commercial reviewers (Kirkus Reviews), from crowd sourced  reviews from Amazon, and at least one of what looks like a bootleg review from someone writing for Newsweek Europe, who may have ignored the label on the boxes of books warning folks to respect the June 2 "publication date" (the books will be in stores by then, so they are floating around).

The Amazon reviewing process is through what they call Vine Customer Review of Free Product, which they describe as follows:

"Amazon Vine invites the most trusted reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help their fellow customers make informed purchase decisions. Amazon invites customers to become Vine Voices based on their reviewer rank, which is a reflection of the quality and helpfulness of their reviews as judged by other Amazon customers. Amazon provides Vine members with free products that have been submitted to the program by participating vendors. Vine reviews are the independent opinions of the Vine Voices. The vendor cannot influence, modify or edit the reviews. Amazon does not modify or edit Vine reviews, as long as they comply with our posting guidelines. A Vine review is identified with the green stripe Customer review from the Amazon Vine Program."

They classify the reviews as positive or critical, so far there are 15 positive and 1 critical, here's the critical one:
Showing 1-1 of 1 reviews (critical)show all reviews
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free ProductWhat's this? )
Note: Advance Reading Copy

Alvin E. Roth, Nobel Prize laureate in economics has written a comfortable and conversational book explaining complex concepts of market design for the lay person. A more apt title, I think would be Problems, Challenges and Solutions in Market Design or Marketing Design for Dummies. “Who Gets What and Why” makes this book sound simple. It is not. It is also not for every casual reader with a mild curiosity.

Dr. Roth defines and explains the new economics of market design which he says brings science to matchmaking. He shows how market design helps solve problems that existing market places haven’t been able to solve naturally.

The author discusses his design of clearing houses for markets that are not commodity markets like: the kidney exchange; the medical labor market; new labor markets for Ph.D.s in economics and school choice systems in New York and Boston.

He defines the challenges and solutions and explains that to achieve efficient outcomes, market places need to make markets:

Thick: Those with enough potential transitions available at one time.
Congested: Enough time for offers to be made and/or accepted or rejected.
(and) Safe to participate in.

He defines matching markets where one can’t just choose, but must also be chosen.
He gives concrete examples to explain his concepts like attributes of three different kinds of restaurants. He discusses design inventions to make markets smarter, thicker and faster.

This book is detailed. It reads like Dr. Roth has taken pains to be clear about those details.

For more in dept discussion of market design you can watch Dr. Roth’s lecture at Stanford University on the web.

Thos book is not for everyone, but is worth the effort to gain new insight and understanding of markets and “Who Gets What.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Royal Economic Society-York Symposium and Mini-Courses on Game Theory, 21-23 May 2015

The 2015 RES-York Symposium and Mini-Courses on Game Theory, the 6th of the series of York Annual Symposium on Game Theory, will be held on 21-23 May 2015 at the Department of Economics and Related Studies, University of York, UK. 

The four keynote speakers of the Symposium (21-22 May 2015) are: 

Bhaskar Dutta (Warwick)

Stephen Morris (Princeton)

Michael Ostrovsky (Stanford)

Eyal Winter (HUJerusalem & Leicester)

The event is organised by the Micro Theory Research Cluster at the Department of Economics and Related Studies (DERS)University of York, and is jointly supported by the Royal Economic Society and the departmental Research Impact Support (RIS) Fund at DERS, University of York.

Right after the Symposium, on Saturday 23 May 2015, we will run two mini-courses delivered by Professor Bhaskar Dutta (Warwick) and Professor Michael Ostrovsky (Stanford), respectively.

Professor Bhaskar Dutta will deliver a mini-course on "Games on Networks". 

Professor Michael Ostrovsky will deliver a mini-course on the topic "Matching in Trading Networks". The background reading can be downloaded below at this webpage.

The schedule on Saturday 23 May 2015 is as follows.

9:00-10:30 Course by Prof. Bhaskar Dutta

10:45-12:15 Course by Prof. Michael Ostrovsky

12:15-13:15 Lunch

13:15-14:45 Course by Prof. Bhaskar Dutta

15:00-16:30 Course by Prof. Michael Ostrovsky

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

IIPSC: the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice

Over at the Dell Foundation (which funds a lot of work on public school choice), they have a Q&A on school choice and enrollment: Neil Dorosin and Gaby Fighetti from The Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice

"The Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice (IIPSC) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to support groups of people in cities in designing and implementing school choice and enrollment processes. They work with consortiums of people in cities to bring them through a process they call market design: creating a group of policies and operations that, when taken together as a whole, govern the way kids apply to and are accepted to schools.
IIPSC is hosting a conference on May 20, 2015 where education leaders from all over theIIPSC_QSO_051915_Blog_callout2 country will gather to immerse themselves in unified enrollment theory and practice. Practitioners from cities that have already implemented or are implementing unified enrollment – Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, New York City, Newark, Oakland, and Washington DC – will be on hand to share their knowledge and experiences. The goal is for all participants to emerge from the conference with a concrete set of knowledge and tools to use in advancing this critical work in their own cities.
Neil Dorosin is the Executive Director and Gaby Fighetti is the Deputy Executive Director of IIPSC. Read more about their work below.
How has IIPSC effectively launched this current reform movement with unified enrollment?
Neil: IIPSC principals first worked together in New York City in the very early Joel Klein years, and in this environment there were almost no charter schools. This illustrates that the ideas within unified enrollment are not specific to any particular type of school- charter schools, district schools, non-public schools, etc. They are ideas that allow administrators to serve families better. To bring efficiency, equity, and transparency to enrollment and choice systems.
When we began working with Denver we realized that what we were doing requires district and charter sectors to work together in a whole new way, and these changes are fundamental to the way cities manage school choice and then hopefully implement portfolio reform strategy. We are committed to political neutrality and always make sure that people in cities know that our work is meant to advance healthy choice processes, not to advance any political position. We love the fact that people in cities all over the country now see the ideas and guiding principles of unified enrollment systems as things that they believe in and want to advance in their cities.
Tell us about the team who helped design the unified enrollment system.
NeilAl Roth shared the Nobel Prize in economics for applying matching theory science to solve real world problems. Most famous examples include the Medical Residency match (matching residents and hospitals), kidney donor exchange programs (identifying compatible pairs of donors and recipients from VERY long waitlists, and saving many lives), and for unified enrollment work.Parag Pathak was his student, and is now a full professor at MIT. Atila Abdulkadiroglu co-wrote the seminal paper on the market design approach to school choice in 2003 and joined Al and Parag in the first schools project – in New York City in 2003. Al, Parag and Atila are all now members of our advisory board and active participants in our projects with cities.
It turns out that matching science can be adapted to solve these and other problems, and to make people’s live better in real and meaningful ways. We are motivated by this every day."