Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer School on Markets, Trento

Summer schools, like the one on Market Design at Trento, are mental islands: you get out of your context of every day, meet new people, in particular students,  you learn about some topic and world seems full of possibilities.

The summer school was run by Dan Friedman and David Parkes, who make a powerful Venn Diagram covering CS and Econ among their research interests, with help from Axel Leijonhufvud and Enrico Zaninotto. The Trento schools have a dagstuhlesque history. There were 20+ students from Econ -- CS -- Applied Math spectrum. They formed groups, did research projects during the week, and presented their work on the last day.  Example projects included improved matching markets and auction design with information revelation costs. I didnt get as much time as I wanted to interact with the students on specific research projects, but enjoyed talking to several. It was two weeks long, but I missed much of the first week due to travel to Edinburgh for ICML, so my notes are spotty.

Lectures: Dan F and David P anchored the lectures, providing intro and glue lectures to solder together the lectures of guest lecturers.  Peter Cramton spoke about electricity markets. It is reassuring to have bona fide economists so deeply embedded. Estille Cantillon spoke about mechanisms for matching students to schools in Belgium, this was a great example of Economist in the Field! Tuomas Sandholm spoke about kidney exchanges and  expressive auctions. I lectured on problems in Ad Exchanges.  I liked Dan's definition of recommendation in a utility (and hence, for me, repeated games framework); David's lecture on combinatorial exchanges in which he posed many open problems; and, a talk with Peter Cramton on what were the a handful of fundamental concepts of Economics. Thinking about the marginal effects emerged as a central tenet, and it came up again in a conversation with Zhenyu Lai when he proposed a target for carbon trading that all countries could adopt. 
  • It is so difficult to travel within Europe by air. There are few direct flights and when they are by EasyJet/RyanAir, they run in the middle of the day and the entire day is consumed traveling. My proposal to EU: start a pan-EU airline or two, kill off the struggling ones supported by individual countries that are flailing.
  • The summer school had sparse Internet access. As a result, no, I didnt get more done, I spent more time fretting there was no Internet access.


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