The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Artificial Currencies
In many settings, resources are allocated among agents over time without the use of monetary transfers: cloud resources among employees, food among food banks, vaccines among hospitals, etc. One way of doing this involves setting up a market based on artificial credits. Such mechanisms have been gaining in popularity, with a noteworthy implementation by Feeding America for coordinating food bank donations in the US. Despite this, not much is understood about the incentives and efficiency properties of these mechanisms.
In this talk, Bannerjee will describe some of his work in understanding such mechanisms. In particular, he will discuss how such simple mechanisms enjoy surprisingly strong performance guarantees under minimal rationality assumptions. Results also provide insights into how to set agent endowments, tradeoffs between different notions of utility and fairness, and the value of having priors about agent utilities. Moreover, they uncover interesting connections between artificial currency mechanisms, bargaining and fair allocation, and online decision-making.
Bio: Sid Banerjee is an assistant professor in the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering (ORIE), and field member in Computer Science and the Center for Applied Mathematics, at Cornell University; he is also a technical consultant at Lyft. He received his PhD from the ECE Department at UT Austin, and was a postdoctoral researcher in the Social Algorithms Lab at Stanford. His work is supported by an NSF CAREER award, and grants from the NSF and ARL.