Friday, June 29, 2012

Matching and Market Design talks at the SAET in Brisbane June 30 - July 3

I woke up in Auckland NZ this morning (Saturday already) on my way to Brisbane, and I'll be speaking about kidney exchange tomorrow (Sunday). There are a number of papers on matching and market design on the program, including these.

Market Design I (Sunday July 1,  11:00-13:00, Bldg 7 Rm 237)
Ning Chen
Room 234, Building 7
1. Ties Matter: Improving E ciency in Class Registration by Introducing
Ning Chen Nanyang Technological University
2. A Necessary and Su cient Condition for Stable Matching Rules to be
Takashi Akahoshi Waseda University
3. Strategyproof Matching with Minimum Quotas
Peter Troyan Stanford University
Daniel Fragiadakis Stanford University
Atsushi Iwasaki Kyushu University
Suguru Ueda Kyushu University
Makota Yokoo Kyushu University
4. Experimentation in Democrcay
Vit alijs A. Butenko Center of Economic Research at ETH
Zurich (
Hans Gersbach Center of Economic Research at ETH

Market Design II  (Monday July 2, 8:30-11:30)
Tayfun Sonmez
Room 348, Building 63
1. College Admission Problem with Clear-In Ranks
Georgy Artemov University of Melbourne
2. Stability and Competitive Equilibrium in Trading Networks
Alexandru Nichifor University of St. Andrews
John William Hat eld Stanford University
Scott Duke Kominers University of Chicago
Michael Ostrovsky Stanford University
Alexander Westkamp University of Bonn
3. Matching with (Branch-of-Choice) Contracts at United States Military
Tayfun Sonmez Boston College
Tobias B. Switzer United States Air Force
4. Platform Markets and Matching with Contracts
Juan Fung University of Illinois at
Chia-Ling Hsu University of Illinois at

Matching, Group Formation, and Evolutionary Games (Monday, July 2, 13:30-15:30)
Takako Fujiwara-Greve
Room 139, Building 8
1. Understanding Stable Matchings: A Non-Cooperative Approach
Yosuke Yasuda GRIPS (
Michihiro Kandori University of Tokyo
Fuhito Kojima Stanford University
2. Group Formation and Heterogeneity in Collective Action Games
Toshimasa Maruta Nihon University
Akira Okada Hitotsubashi University
3. Perfect Foresight Equilibrium Selection in Signaling Games
Kenichi Amaya Kagawa University
4. Behavioral Diversity in Voluntarily Separable Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma
Takako Fujiwara-Greve Keio University
Masashiro Okuno-Fujiwara Ryutu Keizai University and University
of Tokyo

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Unraveling of tech recruiting

Revenge of the Nerds: Tech Firms Scour College Campuses for Talent

"On college campuses these days, the top nerds are getting a taste of what it's like to be star jocks.

"For Maxwell Hawkins, a computer science and art major at Carnegie Mellon University, the moment came in March. A technology recruiting firm sent him a letter by FedEx urging him to drop out of his junior year and take his talents to work for a start-up.
... "The technology boom has created an acute shortage of engineers and software developers. The industry has responded by taking a page from the playbook of professional sports: identify up and comers early, then roll out the red carpet to lock them up.

"With the social media frenzy in full swing, promising students are now wrestling with decisions about whether to stay in school or turn pro.
"The National Basketball Association has a rule called "one and done" that requires players entering the draft to be 19 or have completed their freshman year of college. But some prospective programmers aren't even making it that far.

"Sahil Lavingia was a freshman at the University of Southern California in 2010 when he got an email from Ben Silbermann, chief executive and co-founder of the fast-growing online scrapbook Pinterest. Mr. Silbermann was looking for help building a version of Pinterest for the iPhone and happened upon a data tracking app developed by the self-taught Mr. Lavingia.

"Figuring the young student "seemed like a go-getter," Mr. Silbermann drove up to Berkeley from Silicon Valley to meet Mr. Lavingia, who was coming to the Bay Area for the USC-Berkeley football game. A few days later, Mr. Lavingia had an offer in hand and took a leave from school to take the job.

"Some companies are grabbing talented programmers even before they reach college. Luke Weber taught himself how to design computer games in high school and became one of the most popular contributors to Roblox Corp., a company that lets its subscribers play games developed by its users.

"After graduating, he attended a Roblox conference last June and met the head of the company's marketing department, who asked him if he wanted to shoot some videos to teach people how to make games. The videos turned into a design job, and now Mr. Weber, who has postponed plans to go to college, works three days a week for the company producing games and virtual goods for $25 an hour.

"At 18, he is the youngest employee of the company."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The internet and the market for summer rental housing

Along with all the first order effects of the internet, it has had big effects on small markets, like secondhand books and, it turns out, vacation rentals: The Summer Rental Rat Race.

"as more vacation-home owners have entered the rental business, with help from a growing collection of Web sites that make it easy to post listings, the competition to attract tenants has become fierce.

"“Real estate agents who want to sell you a house will tell you that you can make money off it,” Mr. Johnston said. “Well, I did 20 years ago, but I don’t anymore.”

"There is often money to be made in vacation homes, but as the number of listing services has increased, so have the number of properties posted for rent. For example,, one of the most popular sites, says it has more than 300,000 rentals worldwide.

"Numbers like that are forcing casual landlords to learn how to make their homes appear higher in search results, to track prices by monitoring their neighbors’ listings, and to deal with customer-service headaches like a negative Yelp-style review from renters.
"HomeAway listed 304 homes for rent in the Catskills in 2008; now it has roughly 520 homes available. Along the Jersey Shore over the same time frame, listings increased to 2,200 from about 700; in the Hamptons they jumped to 750 from 270.
"HomeAway owns another popular Web site, VRBO, which stands for “vacation rentals by owner.” But at these and other HomeAway sites, homes posted by professional property managers now account for 27 percent of the listings.
“We see that as a net benefit for our travelers,” said Jon Gray, HomeAway’s vice president for North America. “It gives more choice to them.”
"It also creates more competition for individual homeowners, who themselves have more rental listing services to choose from. The options include global players like HomeAway and FlipKey, which is owned by TripAdvisor, and specialized sites like, which lists holiday homes in France."

Monday, June 25, 2012

University of Chicago adds a Z-list admissions option

The Chicago Maroon reports on an unexpectedly large class of 2016, as applications continue to grow, acceptance rates to fall, and the yield rate (the percentage of accepted students who decide to attend) rose. And Chicago has adopted an unusual admissions option previously seen at Harvard, the Z-list*.

"More students than expected have accepted a spot in the College’s class of 2016, pushing University officials to balance the U of C’s increasing popularity and its commitment to an intimate undergraduate experience.

"The incoming freshman class will comprise approximately 1,525 students, 125 more than the College’s consistent target size, according to University spokesperson Jeremy Manier.

"The number of students who accepted an offer of admission—the “yield rate”—rose to 46.8 percent, up 6.9 percentage points from last year. This is the first year that the yield rate strayed from the 36–40 percent range since 2007, even as the acceptance rate continued to decline.
"The College only accepted 20 transfer students, instead of the usual 40 or 50.

"The College is keeping a “z-list” option for the first time, offering applicants admission into the class of 2017 if they first take a gap year. Manier said that between 20 and 30 students are expected to accept that option.

*Note that the Z-list option is different from an acceptance simply deferred for a year, because it puts a condition on what the applicant can do in the intervening year (he/she can't enroll in another course of study...)

 HT: Scott Kominers

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Girls' lacrosse camps and college admissions

College admissions begins early for high school and even middle school athletes, not just in big money sports like men's football and basketball, but for many sports, including women's lacrosse. Some of it starts with summer camps:
Northwestern Takes Game Directly to Eastern Recruits

"Northwestern has developed a following in the Northeast thanks to a pipeline built by Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, who holds girls lacrosse camps in New York and Massachusetts each summer.

"Amonte Hiller, who also runs camps at Northwestern, said her main focus was promoting the sport. But she is aware of the other benefits, as more than half of her players during the past 11 years have been former campers. Of the 34 current Wildcats, 24 are from New York, New Jersey or Massachusetts. 
"Coaches routinely run summer camps at their universities. They are a way to raise money and visibility while serving as an initial meet-and-greet with potential recruits.

"But it is uncommon for a coach to take a camp out of state. Stacey Osburn, an N.C.A.A. spokeswoman, said basketball camps must be held within 100 miles of the university, and a football camp must be held in the university’s state or within 50 miles of its campus.
There are no restrictions for lacrosse camps, Osburn said. And since high school lacrosse’s densest and most talent-rich areas are still in the Northeast, out-of-town camps are an attractive option for coaches. 
“The first camp I went to, Kelly came right up and introduced herself,” said the senior midfielder Alex Frank, a Westwood graduate. “It had a big impact, having that relationship with her when I was just entering middle school. And as I got older, I knew what her coaching style was and I was comfortable with her.”

"Wildcats midfielder Shannon Smith, a native of West Babylon, N.Y., started attending Amonte Hiller’s camp on Long Island as a fifth grader.

“Kelly would walk around to all the different fields making sure she knew the kids,” said Smith, a 2011 Tewaaraton Award winner. “You were always shocked how she knew a lot of the kids before camp even started.” 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Kidney exchange pilot program: progress report

The official name is the OPTN national kidney paired donation pilot program (KPDPP). The latest news release reports that in March 2012 there were 110 transplant centers enrolled.

However the report also notes that "as of this writing" there are only 129 patients enrolled. That's just about one patient per program. And since 2010 a total of 19 transplants have been performed to date.

I'm hoping that the program will take a look at this participation problem.

Here's a bit of good operational news from a recent announcement:

"Match run frequency increased to twice a month
The goal of the OPTN Kidney Paired Donation Pilot Program (KPDPP) is to increase the number of transplants for candidates who have a willing but incompatible living donor. One way to do this is to increase the number of match runs to more than one a month, which was recently requested by the KPDPP work group and many of the 118 participating transplant centers."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Experiment on Medicare auctions

Charlie Plott and two of his students have a recent QJE paper that employs an experiment to make a point about market design. They study the Medicare procurement auction that has been criticized by Peter Cramton: see my previous posts here, here and here.

 The CMS Auction: Experimental Studies of a Median-Bid Procurement Auction with Nonbinding Bids Brian Merlob Charles R. Plott Yuanjun Zhang
Quarterly Journal of Economics Volume 127, Issue 2Pp. 793-827

 Abstract We report on the experimental results of simple auctions with (i) a median-bid pricing rule and (ii) nonbinding bids (winning bids can be withdrawn)—the two central pillars of the competitive bidding program designed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Comparisons between the performance of the CMS auction and the performance of the excluded-bid auction reveal the problematic nature of the CMS auction. The CMS auction fails to generate competitive prices of goods and fails to satisfy demand. In all proposed efficiency measures, we find the excluded-bid auction significantly outperforms the CMS auction

Here's a brief news story about the article: Medicare auction will face severe difficulties, research shows 

"Unlike standard auctions, however, the CMS auction was designed with two unorthodox rules. First, the eventual selling price is set at the median of all of the winning bids. Second, bids are nonbinding, so companies can change their mind once the prices are set.

"Critics say that these rules cultivate a harmful bidding strategy. To ensure a winning bid, each company will make a very low offer; this carries no risk, because the companies can cancel their bid if the median price turns out to be too low. The result is that participants in the auction will tend to make low-ball bids, assuring that the median price will also be very low—so low, in fact, that few of the companies can actually afford it, leading them to cancel their offers. At the extreme, nothing is bought or sold and, Plott says, "the auction crashes. It's just not an effective auction."
"And what will happen then, critics warn, is that the government will end up negotiating prices with individual companies—negating the whole point of a competitive-bidding scheme in the first place. "You can see immediately from theoretical arguments that the potential for disaster is built right in the strategic structures," Plott says.
"To determine if such theoretical predictions translate into real-world behavior, it is essential to examine experimentally how people behave in an actual auction, says Plott—who, for the last 30 years at Caltech, has been developing experimental techniques to test economic theories. He posed the problem to his experimental economics (EC 160) class. Two of his students, Merlob and Zhang, took up the challenge and spent a year researching, designing, and conducting experiments to test that behavior.
"The team used computers at Caltech and the University of Maryland to run a simplified version of the CMS auction and several other auction types; one, for example, followed more standard rules, with binding bids and prices set at the lowest bid that did not win, instead of the median of all winning offers. Each auction involved 12 or 16 bidders (student volunteers from Caltech and the University of Maryland), who first had to pass a quiz showing that they understood how the auctions worked. The volunteers were given just one item to sell—a generic "thing" (since the bidders' behavior should be the same in a given auction type, regardless of the item being sold)—each at a different cost to them.
"The Caltech team also examined the effect of other auction features, such as whether the costs of each item for each bidder are public knowledge and the effect of charging bidders to participate.
"The results, the researchers say, convincingly support critics of the CMS auction design. "It's pretty disastrous what the bidders ended up doing," Zhang says. In the simulated CMS-type auction, some people bid $0, and the "government" was not able to buy all the items it needed. The experiments also showed that a standard auction is much more efficient and successful: the government was able to buy all the items it needed, and the bidders who had the lowest costs were the winners.
"Using this experimental approach, the researchers were able to pinpoint the fundamental problem of the CMS auction design: the two rules. "If you just get rid of one of those two rules, it doesn't help—you still have problems," Plott explains. "So you have to get rid of both of them."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

ESA conference at NYU June 21-24 2012

The Center for Experimental and Social Science (CESS) at the New York Universityis is hosting the Economic Science Association Conference New York 2012 on June 21-24 2012.

keynote speakers:  
Here's the program.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ship insurance, ship ownership, and arms embargoes

The breakout of cold war politics regarding the emerging civil war in Syria casts some light on the insurance markets for ships. Briefly, the United States would like to enforce an arms embargo on the Syrian government, and the Russians are supplying arms. What tools are in Washington's arsenal, short of acts of war?  It turns out the answer is ship insurance. (And ship insurance may be a simpler market than ship ownership...) The Telegraph reports: US enlists Britain's help to stop ship 'carrying Russian attack helicopters' to Syria

"Washington, which last week condemned Moscow for continuing to arm the Syrian regime, has asked British officials to help stop the Alaed delivering its alleged cargo by using sanctions legislation to force its London-based insurer to withdraw its cover.

"Under the terms of the current European Union arms embargo against Syria, imposed in May last year, there is a ban on the "transfer or export" of arms and any related "brokering" services such as insurance. Withdrawal of a ship's insurance cover would make it difficult for it legally to dock elsewhere and could force it to return the cargo to port.
"It is insured by Standard P and I Club, which is managed by Charles Taylor and Co Ltd of London, whose offshore syndicate director, Robert Dorey, confirmed on Saturday that they were investigating claims that the ship was carrying arms.
"Like most international cargo ships, the Alaed has a complex ownership and management structure. Its registered owner is Volcano Shipping on the island of Curacao in the Dutch Antilles, but it is listed as part of a fleet belonging to a Russian company, FEMCO, which was unavailable for comment last night. According to FEMCO's website, the ship's commercial management and chartering is carried out by United Nordic Shipping, a Danish company based in Copenhagen, but yesterday, United Nordic shipping said that the management agreement had never actually been finalised, and that FEMCO's website was wrong.

The insurance on the ship in question has subsequently been cancelled, and the news reports leave me in some doubt about what happens next.

The Telegraph thinks the withdrawal of insurance stops the ship:
Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria: A Russian ship believed to be carrying helicopters and missiles for Syria has been effectively stopped in its tracks off the coast of Scotland after its insurance was cancelled at the behest of the British government.

"As it neared the Dutch coast, the authorities there also hailed the ship, the security sources said, and it made an abrupt turn, heading towards Scotland. It was last night now off the coast of the Hebrides but with no insurance covering the ship security sources say it may now have to return to port."

 The NY Times is less sure: Insurer Cancels Policy on Syria-Bound Russian Ship

"The ship, the 400-foot MV Alaed, owned by the Russian shipping company Femco, was last tracked about 100 miles to the west of Scotland early Tuesday, according to data available online. The state-owned Russian news agency Ria Novosti reported that it was carrying “a cargo of Mil Mi-25 attack helicopters” and “coastal-based anti-ship missiles” to Syria.

"Its insurer, the Standard Club, said in a statement that the coverage was withdrawn, raising the prospect that the ship would be delayed as it sought an alternative, because its cargo had breached Standard Club's rules. "We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria," the statement said. "We have already informed the shipowner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage."

"It was not immediately clear why the cargo ship was off the coast of Scotland on its voyage to Syria or whether the ship would continue in defiance of the insurance policy withdrawal."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Design of electronic stock exchanges (after the Facebook IPO)

The technical (as opposed to financial and disclosure) difficulties in the recent Facebook IPO have led to renewed discussion in the press about market design in a world of high velocity trading. Here's one of the more thoughtful stories: Could Computers Protect the Market From Computers?

"The Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees the capital markets, has proposed a "consolidated audit trail" requiring exchanges to report every trade to a central repository, where they could later be analyzed.

"The project is a "very high priority" for the SEC, says an official, but the agency doesn't know when the rules for it will be completed. The main obstacle: agreeing on how to standardize the various formats that brokers and exchanges use to gather trading data.

"It will cost money to improve and modernize market structure," says Bryan Harkins, chief operating officer at Direct Edge, the fourth-largest stock exchange. "But the short-term money pales in comparison to boosting investor confidence in the long term."

"The SEC has estimated that a centralized order-tracking system would cost approximately $4 billion to set up and $2.1 billion a year to maintain.

"Mr. Leinweber of Berkeley has a simpler, and probably cheaper, solution in mind. He proposes that supercomputers—like those at national laboratories such as Berkeley's—should track every trade in real time. If volume began surging dangerously, the system would flash a "yellow light." Regulators or stock exchanges could then slow trading down, giving the market time to clear and potentially averting a crisis."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Economics faculty and market design at Stanford

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has a story about how Stanford Lures 3 Top Economists from Harvard that focuses on market design.

""The chance to be a colleague with my former students seemed like a lot of fun," says Mr. Roth, a professor of economics and business administration at Harvard."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Should radio spectrum be rented instead of sold?

Some thoughts on the market for radio spectrum (i.e. for how it should be licensed and sold): Presidential Panel Urges More Flexible Use of Spectrum.

"A just-completed report from a presidential advisory committee urges President Obama to adopt new computer technologies to make better use of a huge swath of the radio spectrum now controlled by federal agencies.

"The shift, which could be accomplished by presidential signature — and without Congressional involvement — would relieve spectrum congestion caused by the popularity of smartphones, and generate far more revenue for the federal government than auctioning spectrum to wireless carriers, according to the authors of the report.

"The new plan, which calls on the government to electronically rent or lease spectrum for periods of time as short as seconds using newly available computerized radio technologies, was presented publicly Friday to a meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, or PCAST.

"The authors of the report included Eric E. Schmidt, the chairman of Google, Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer and Silicon Valley venture capitalists Mark P. Gorenberg and David E. Liddle, among others. The report is scheduled to be presented to the president in June after final editing."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

B-school applications

You can tell you're in a matching market if there's an application and admission process. Selective Business schools are deeply into their admissions processes. The WSJ has a short description of the newly released Harvard Business School application for the class of 2015. HBS asks for two short essays this year:
Tell us about something you did well. (400 words)
Tell us about something you wish you had done better. (400 words)

Applicants who get through the initial screening process are invited for in person interviews, at which point around one in two get accepted.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Misc. further notes on transplantation and deceased donation in Israel

The new Israeli transplant law which gives priority for transplants to people who have signed donor cards has gone into effect, and the first transplants were received by people who received priority in this way in April. YNET has the story here, in Hebrew (but try Google translate...).

The phenomenon I wrote about yesterday, about gaming the system, will take a while to evaluate, since only in time will people who signed donor cards under the new law become potential donors.

Here's an experimental paper forthcoming in the August AER, reporting a lab experiment with such a prioritiy scheme in an abstract setting (but without a strategy set large enough to explore the kind of gaming described yesterday):
Kessler, Judd B. and Alvin E. Roth, '' Organ Allocation Policy and the Decision to Donate,'' American Economic Review, forthcoming.

HT: Ran Shorrer

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Israeli organ donation card--gaming the new priority system

Here's the new Israeli organ donation card:

The details they ask for are:
first name, last name, id number, street, city, zip code, year of birth, phone number, alt. phone number.

Then in red:
With the hope that I may be of help to another, I hereby order and donate after my death:
() Any organ of my body that another my find of use to save his/her life.
() Kidney () Liver () Cornea () Heart () Skin () Lungs () Bones () Pancreas
[] As long as a clergyman chosen by my family will approve the donation after my death.

* My donation is for transplant only
* Only above age 18

Date ________________      Signature _________________

Notice the last choice, specifying that the donation may be contingent on the decision of a "clergyman chosen by my family."

To be understood this choice has to be viewed in connection with the new Israeli legislation that gives priority for allocating organs to those who are registered donors. There was a fight about whether to include the "clergyman clause" on the donor card. I blogged about that fight here, the idea being that it might give priority to get an organ if they needed one to some people who had signed the donor card without intending to actually become donors even if they died in a way that otherwise made them eligible:

""Health officials suspect that the [stipulation about a clergyman] is part of an effort by religious groups to bypass the system. In effect, people who do not genuinely intend to donate organs would receive preferential treatment while on the waiting list for a transplant. Their religious patron would then veto the organ donation if the person dies."

HT: Rann Smorodinsky and Assaf Romm

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Conservative rabbinate recognizes same sex marriages

Conservative Movement sanctions same-sex marriage

"The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards issued the ruling Thursday on a 13-0 vote with one abstention, said Rabbi Elliot Dorff, the committee chairman. The panel of scholars approved two model wedding ceremonies and guidelines for a same-sex divorce. Rabbis can adapt the marriage ceremonies for the couples.

"We acknowledge that these partnerships are distinct from those discussed in the Talmud as `according to the law of Moses and Israel,' but we celebrate them with the same sense of holiness and joy as that expressed in heterosexual marriages," the legal opinion states.

"Conservative Judaism is the second-largest Jewish movement in North America and holds a middle ground between liberal and traditional groups. The Reform and Reconstructionist branches accept gay relationships, while the stricter Orthodox Jewish movement does not. The Conservative law committee lifted the ban on gay ordination in December 2006.

Elinor Ostrom 1933-2012

Lin Ostrom won the 2009 Nobel prize in economics for her work on the design of common pool resource systems. She studied how communities provided things for themselves, like irrigation in mountain valleys in Nepal...

Her work included lab experiments.

Here's today's announcement of her passing: IU community mourns passing of Distinguished Professor and Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom

Jerry Green conference in Tel Aviv

Conference in Economic Theoryin Honor of Jerry Green 
Tel Aviv, Israel 
13-15 June, 2012

It starts tomorrow, organized by Eddie Dekel, in honor of Jerry Green's 65th birthday. There's a long list of participants.

 Here's the conference program:

Wednesday, June 13th

8:50-9:00 - Opening Remarks

9:00-10:00 - Elections and Strategic Voting: Condorcet and Borda
Eric Maskin (Harvard)

10:00-11:00 - Optimal Contracts and Money BurningAttila Ambrus (Duke University)

11:00-11:20 - Coffee Break

11:20-12:20 - Behavioral Competitive Equlibrium and Extreme PricesTomasz Strzalecki (Harvard)

12:20-13:50 - Lunch  

13:50-14:50 - TBA
Hugo Hopenhayn (UCLA) 

14:50-15:50 - A Search Story of the Peacock's TailBalazs Szentes (Chicago)

15:50-16:10 - Coffee Break 

16:10-17:10 - Impartial Decision MakingHerve Moulin (Rice)

17:20 - Bus departs from the university to the hotel

18:40 - Bus departs from the hotel to "Shalvata" for an informal buffet-style dinner at the port overlooking the sea. Dinner at 19:00.
Thursday, June 14th
9:00-10:00 - Concurrent Discovery 
Joel Sobel (UCSD)

10:00-11:00 - Multidimensional Product DesignGlen Weyl (Chicago)

11:00-11:20 - Coffee Break 

11:20-12:20 - Two(!) Good To Be TrueSergiu Hart (Hebrew University)

12:20-13:50 - Lunch

13:50-14:50 - Decision-Theoretic Underpinnings of Informativeness OrderingsRoberto Serrano (Brown)

14:50-15:50 -  Communication and Money in Repeated Games on Networks  
Alex Wolitzky (Stanford) 

15:50-16:10 - Coffee Break  

16:10-17:10 - TBADrew Fudenberg (Harvard)

17:20 - Bus departs from the university to the hotel

19:10 - Bus departs from the hotel to "Liliot" for the main conference dinner. 
Dinner at 19:30.

Friday, June 15th

9:00-10:00 - Robustness
Stephen Morris (Princeton)

10:00-11:00 - Strategic TournamentsAriel Rubinstein (Tel Aviv University and New York University)

11:00-11:20 - Coffee Break

11:20-12:20 - TBA
John Geanakoplos (Yale)

12:20-13:50 - Lunch

14:00 - Bus departs from the university to the hotel.

16:40 - Bus departs from the hotel for a tour of Tel Aviv's White City (a World Cultural Heritage site) and Jaffa (see local information for more information). The tour is about 3-4 hours.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ariel Rubinstein on why game theory is no good

Ariel Rubinstein is the famous game theorist who thinks that game theory isn't useful. It's a position he's put forward in many venues (e.g. here), most recently in this interview (and see his new book--new in English that is).

I once gave a talk at the Hebrew University that was followed immediately with a talk by Ariel, to the same audience. My talk was called something like "The Economist as Engineer," and focused on the kinds of market design applications of game theory covered in this blog: labor market clearinghouses for doctors and others, school choice mechanisms in various American cities, kidney exchange...

Ariel's talk was called something like "Why game theory isn't useful." 

So, I gave my talk, we broke for a fifteen minute coffee break, then we all came back and Ariel stood up and I sat where he had been sitting and everyone else returned to their seats. Naturally the first question he got, just about when he had finished saying the title of his talk, was "how about all that stuff that Al just talked about?  Isn't it useful?"

He answered (I paraphrase from memory): "Oh, Al's stuff is useful alright. But it's not game theory."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Eating dogs

A NY Times op-ed considers the repugnance of eating the dog...

"Although dog-eating is taboo in the United States, personal consumption of dog meat is legal in most states. Likewise, Americans find horse-eating offensive; a five-year federal ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption was lifted last year. (Chicken-fried horse steak with onion gravy was on the menu at the Harvard Faculty Club until 1985.) Horse meat is consumed in France, just as dog meat is eaten in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Tonga, parts of Asia and even Switzerland. In Poland, some ingest dog fat as a curative. The status of dog meat as a hard-luck food is also well documented — Germans during the two world wars referred to it as “blockade mutton.”

 "Yet in the United States, dog-eating has been a longstanding flashpoint for anxieties about race and citizenship. In 1904, a group of scantily clad Philippine Igorots from the Luzon highlands reenacted a daily “Bow Wow Feast” at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Loosely based on the custom of sumang, in which a dog was sacrificed and eaten after military victory, the dog-eating spectacle was a sensation. Touring Los Angeles in 1906, the Igorots, now suspiciously “fat and glossy,” were blamed for an “epidemic of thefts” of over 200 “high-class dogs,” according to The Los Angeles Times.

 "No dog theft was ever substantiated, but American politicians readily declared that the Igorots were “unfit” for American citizenship, a pressing matter in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, when the United States defeated Spain, claimed its empire and annexed the Philippines. Moreover, the arrival of millions of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and the rise of Jim Crow laws in the South fueled white nativist fears of racial mongrelization. Between 1901 and 1904, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution need not “follow the Flag”; the country could legally annex an overseas territory and deny its people citizenship. New American humane education programs in Philippine public schools stressed the importance of animal kindness, including the proper care of pet dogs, as a keystone of civilization, moral agency and, perhaps, future independence. "

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Economic Fables by Ariel Rubinstein

Recently translated from the Hebrew

The Amazon web page I accessed also offers 9 new from $14.98 1 used from $47.89. (Those used books are still rare...)

Here is the book description (I haven't seen it yet, but hope to read it on the long plane-ride home from Israel later this week):

"I had the good fortune to grow up in a wonderful area of Jerusalem, surrounded by a diverse range of people: Rabbi Meizel, the communist Sala Marcel, my widowed Aunt Hannah, and the intellectual Yaacovson. As far as I'm concerned, the opinion of such people is just as authoritative for making social and economic decisions as the opinion of an expert using a model." Part memoir, part crash-course in economic theory, this deeply engaging book by one of the world's foremost economists looks at economic ideas through a personal lens. Together with an introduction to some of the central concepts in modern economic thought, Ariel Rubinstein offers some powerful and entertaining reflections on his childhood, family and career. In doing so, he challenges many of the central tenets of game theory, and sheds light on the role economics can play in society at large. Economic Fables is as thought-provoking for seasoned economists as it is enlightening for newcomers to the field.

Medical school admissions statistics

From the NY Times, accompanying this story: Pre-Med’s New Priorities: Heart and Soul and Social Science

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dead eagles: a different sort of cadaver shortage

A different sort of deceased donor waiting list: A Repository for Eagles Finds Itself In Demand

"the National Eagle Repository [is] the only place where American Indians can legally obtain bald and golden eagles from the federal government for traditional ceremonies.

"Through a series of federal acts dating to the 1940s, bald and golden eagles have been fiercely protected. It is illegal to hunt the birds and also to collect feathers or eagle parts without the proper permit.

"And so, for more than 30 years, this United States Fish and Wildlife Service program has been shipping thousands of eagle carcasses and parts to American Indians, who view the animals as sacred.

"But a growing backlog of applications, and a slew of recent court battles over when American Indians can lawfully obtain eagles on their own, has raised questions about whether the repository is sufficient.

"Currently, tribal members seeking an immature golden eagle, the most coveted bird, must wait about four and a half years. Wait times for a bald eagle are two years. Despite the efforts by the Wildlife Service to ship animals as swiftly as possible, the waiting list has swelled to more than 6,000 applications.

National Eagle Repository

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Same sex marriage: some history til now

The Washington Post gives some background to recent events.

"In 1970, in a case that made national news, Baker and McConnell applied for a marriage license in Minnesota.
"Baker and McConnell were denied when they applied to marry in Minnesota in 1970. They challenged that decision in court. They lost.

“The institution of marriage as a union [of] man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family, is as old as the book of Genesis,” wrote the Minnesota Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to step in.
"But after the AIDS epidemic, there was a shift: Instead of keeping the law away, gay couples wanted the law on their side. “This request for marriage is, in effect, sort of asking the government to regulate our relationships, or at least give gay people the opportunity to be regulated by the government,” Ball said.

"Then, in Hawaii, a lesbian named Ninia Baehr had an ear infection. She lacked health insurance and — as medical bills piled up — she called a local gay rights group to see if she could obtain insurance through her partner.

"They asked if she’d like to get married, instead. When the state of Hawaii refused her request for a marriage license, Baehr and others filed suit. Their case brought a landmark victory in 1993: State courts declared that Hawaii had no constitutional basis for denying marriage licenses to gay couples.

"Then the case led to one loss after another. Hawaii amended its constitution and defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. And, around the country, some religious and conservative groups began to mobilize against a threat they hadn’t taken seriously before.
"The result was the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Bill Clinton. It defines marriage, for federal purposes, as a legal union between one man and one woman. The Obama administration has now stopped defending that law in court.

"For those advocating same-sex marriage, the next big win came in Massachusetts in 2003, when the state Supreme Court legalized marriages between gay couples.

"Now, six states and the District of Columbia allow gay couples to marry. Two states, Washington and Maryland, have gay marriage laws that have not taken effect. And five others give gay couples the rights of marriage without the name, allowing “civil unions” instead.

"But, in 39 states, gay marriage has been specifically prohibited through laws or constitutional amendments.

"Baker and McConnell, the men who made the promise in Oklahoma, still live in Minnesota, well past retirement age. They now avoid the media: When a Washington Post reporter called McConnell this week, he declined to comment.

"They have seen up-close that making same-sex marriage thinkable is not the same as making it real. Gay marriage is still illegal in Minnesota. And this November, voters will consider writing that ban into their state constitution."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Terasaki Medical Innovation award

Itai Ashlagi and I received the NKR Terasaki Medical Innovation award Monday evening at the American Transplant Congress meeting in Boston, for our work on kidney exchange algorithms for patient pools with highly sensitized patients.

"The Terasaki Medical Innovation Award will be presented annually to a medical professional who, through their pioneering work, has had a significant impact in advancing paired exchange transplantation and saving the lives of those facing kidney failure. "

Awards are nice for the recipients, but one can't help but be mpressed by the career of the scientist after whom the award is named, UCLA's Dr. Paul Ichiro Terasaki. Dr. Terasaki pioneered the tests used today to determine immunocompatibility, and built a business to make tools to implement those tests widely available.

Born in California in 1929, he and his family were interned with other Japanese-Americans during WWII. Later in life he donated $50 Million to UCLA, which named their Life Sciences building after him.

In short, he has had a storied scientific and American career.

Also receiving an award Monday evening was the non-directed altruistic donor Alexander Berger, about whom I blogged earlier: A kidney donor argues that selling kidneys should be legal, after he published a NY Times op-ed to that effect. (He's a 2011 Stanford philosophy grad, and he apparently worked with Debra Satz, although they disagree about whether kidney sales should be allowed.) Appropriately enough, he's currently working for an organization called Give Well, which works to identify charities that are "cost-effective, underfunded, and outstanding." He gave well himself, and started a nonsimultaneous extended altruistic donor (NEAD) chain of the kind NKR is famous for.

(I discussed the first NEAD chain here, and have posted about them frequently.)

The food was pretty good too.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What has G-d been doing since the Creation? (Matchmaking, of course...))

My recently graduated student Jacob Leshno left me with a wonderful parting gift: he (and his dad) arranged to have a sofer, a Hebrew scribe, write out one of my favourite passages from the Talmud, which suggests that matching is a very big deal indeed...

A Roman lady asked R. Jose b. Halafta: ‘In how many days did the Holy One, blessed be He, create His world”’  He answered: ‘In six days, as it is written, For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, etc.(Ex. XXXI, 17).  She asked further: And what has He been doing since that time?’  He answered:He is joining couples [proclaiming]: “A’s wife [to be] is allotted to A; A’s daughter is allotted to B; (So-and-so’s wealth is for So-and-so).”’  Said she: ‘This is a thing which I, too, am able to do.  See how many male slaves and how many female slaves I have; I can make them consort together all at the same time.’  Said he: ‘If in your eyes it is an easy task, it is in His eyes as hard a task as the dividing of the Red Sea.’ He then went away and left her.  What did she do?  She sent for a thousand male slaves and a thousand female slaves, placed them in rows, and said to them: ‘Male A shall take to wife female B; C shall take D and so on.’  She let them consort together one night.  In the morning they came to her; one had a head wounded, another had an eye taken out, another an elbow crushed, another a leg broken; one said ‘I do not want this one [as my husband],’ another said: ‘I do not want this one [as my wife].’

Midrash Rabbah (VaYikra Rabbah)
Translated into English under the editorship of Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman, and Maurice Simon,
Leviticus, Chapters I-XIX translated by Rev. J. Israelstam, Soncino Press, London, 1939
Chapter VIII (TZAV)

And if empirical evidence is needed that some marriages are arranged in heaven, consider the wedding this evening of Dvorah Marciano and Assaf Romm in Jerusalem, and the upcoming weddings of Ilana Turko and Judd Kessler on Shelter Island, and Theresa Morin and Brian Hall on Little Cranberry Island, and a little further ahead of Coren Apicella and Eduardo Azevedo, and Katie Baldiga and Luke Coffman. (Not to mention lots of anniversaries that come to mind, including Emilie's and my recent 35th:). It appears that economists are also into matching...)

Update (from Jacob Leshno): here is the line by line translation...

מטרוניתא שאלה את ר' יוסי בר חלפתא,
אמרה לו:

A Roman lady asked R. Jose b. Halafta:
בכמה ימים ברא הקב"ה את עולמו?
‘In how many days did the Holy One,
blessed be He, create His World?”
אמר לה: לששת ימים, דכתיב (שמות לא): כי ששת ימים
עשה ה' את השמים וגו'.

He answered: ‘In six days, as it is written, For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, etc.’
אמרה לו: ומאותה שעה עד עכשיו מהו יושב ועושה?

She asked further: ‘And what has He been doing since that time?’
אמר לה: מזווג זווגים. אשתו של פלוני לפלוני,

He answered: ‘He is joining couples: “A’s wife [to be allotted] to A;
בתו של פלוני לפלוני, ממונו של פלוני לפלוני.

A’s daughter is allotted to B; (so-and-so’s wealth is for so-and-so).”
אמרה לו: הדא הוא?! אף אני יכולה לעשות כן.
כמה עבדים יש לי וכמה שפחות יש לי ואני יכולה לזווגם
בשעה אחת!

Said she:  ‘This is a thing which I, too, am able to do.
See how many male slaves and how many female slaves I have; I can make them consort together
all at the same time.’
אמר לה: אם קלה היא בעיניך, קשה היא לפני
הקדוש ברוך הוא, כקריעת ים סוף!
Said he: ‘If in your eyes it is an easy task, it is in His eyes as hard a task as the dividing of the Red Sea.’
הניחה והלך לו.
He then went away and left her.
מה עשתה?
What did she do?
שלחה והביאה אלף עבדים ואלף שפחות והעמידה
אותן שורות שורות.
She sent for a thousand male slaves and a thousand female slaves, placed them in rows
אמרה להם: פלוני ישא לפלונית, פלוני לפלונית,
זווגן בלילה אחת.
, and said to them: ‘Male A shall take to wife female B; C shall take D and so on
She let them consort together one night.
לצפרא אתין לגבה, דין מוחו פציעה
ודין עינו שמוטה ודין אציליה פריך ודין ארכובה חבירה.
In the morning they came to her;
one had a head wounded, another had an eye taken out, another an elbow crushed,
another a leg broken;
דין אמר: לינא בעיא לדין, ודין אמר: לינא בעיא לדין.

one said: ‘I do not want this one,’ another said: ‘I do not want this one
מיד שלחה והביאה את ר' יוסי בר חלפתא אמרה לו:
רבי! אמת היא תורתכם, נאה משובחת היא!

Immediately she sent for Rabi Jose b. Halafta, told him:
Rabi! True is your wisdom and fair it is
יפה אמרת כל מה שאמרת.
Well said all that you have spoken