Science | DOI: 10.1145/1787234.1787240
meets computer Science
A field emerging from economics is teaming up with computer science
to improve auctions, supply chains, and communication protocols.
The BoundARIes sepARAtIng computer science and other disciplines are blurring at an accelerating pace. As work in computers, biology, the physical and social sciences, and economics becomes more complex, so does
the motivation for practitioners to seek
help from each other.
Mechanism design, which emerged
from economic game theory in the
1970s, is now shaking hands with information technology. Built on a formal
mathematical base, mechanism design
expresses ideas that are elegantly simple, yet tricky to apply in the real world:
people in competition will act “
rationally” to meet their own selfish goals; they
have private information, and may act
in ways that can’t be observed; and they
may lie. The central goal in mechanism
design is to devise a system by which
those people will tend to act in ways that
benefit the owner of the system, or society at large.
PHotoGraPH Courtesy oF darPa
Information technologists are turning these concepts into such disparate
applications as auction management,
supply chain optimization, and the
matching of organ donors and recipients. Meanwhile, mechanism design is
enabling advances in information tech-
in the DaRPa network challenge, teams used mechanism design and social networking techniques to locate the defense agency’s 10 geographically dispersed, red weather balloons.
nology, from network design to distributed computing to operating systems.
The DARPA Network Challenge
from the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA) offers one ex-
ample, with a social networking twist.
Last December, DARPA tethered 10 red
weather balloons at undisclosed loca-
tions across the continental U.S. DAR-
PA’s challenge: Be the first team to find
all 10 balloons.