Socal workshop season is in full swing

People outside of Southern California often don’t appreciate how dense (and strong) the collection of universities is in the socal region.  Between Caltech, USC, UCLA, UCSD, UCSB, Irvine, Riverside, etc.  There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on!  And, one of the great things about the area is that there’s a strong sense of community.  That is really on show at this time of the year…

We’re in the middle of workshop season in the LA area where every week or so there is a Socal X workshop.  We’ve already had the Socal Control Workshop, next up is the Socal Network Economics and Game Theory (NEGT) symposium (next Friday).  The week after, we have the Socal Theory Day, and the week after that we have the Socal Machine Learning day! (The last two are being hosted at Caltech this year.)

So, if you’re in the area — I’ll probably see you at least once over the next few weeks!  Be sure to register for the ones you want to attend ASAP…

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Reporting from SoCal NEGT

Last week, USC hosted our annual Southern California Network Economics and Game Theory (NEGT) workshop.  (Thanks to David Kempe and Shaddin Dughmi for all the organization this year!)  It’s always a very fun workshop, and really does a great job in ensuring a multidisciplinary community around CS, EE, and Econ in the LA area.  We’ve been doing it for so long now that the faculty & students really know each other well at this point…

As always, there were lots of great talks.  In particular, we had a great set of keynotes again this year.

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A report from SoCal NEGT

(I wrote this during the workshop a few weeks ago, and just realized that I never actually hit “publish.”  Better late then never, I guess!)

Every year in the fall, all the folks in southern California interested in the intersection of economics and engineering/computer science get together and have a two-day workshop that we call NEGT for “Network Economics and Game Theory.” Hosting duties rotate between USC, UCLA, and Caltech, and this year it was our job.  The workshop is just wrapping up and, thanks to our amazing admin Sydney Garstang, everything went wonderfully!

There were lots of great talks, and the slides will eventually start to show up here.  Of the many highlights, our two external speakers both gave really great talks.  Our first keynote, Tim Roughgarden, gave a great overview of recent results in the area of approximate mechanism design.  This is a direction that many folks in the Algorithmic Game Theory community have been pushing on in a while, but Tim showed some very interesting new results.  Plus, it is always interesting to see how economists react to this direction, which is very different than the traditional viewpoint.  Our second keynote, Markus Mobius, gave a really interesting empirical take on the power of social learning.  He showed results from an experiment involving Harvard undergraduates performing a task that required social learning and was able to test various conjectures for how such learning occurs (as well as the magnitude of social learning that occurs).  Given the huge focus in CS on models where we learn from our friends, it was quite interesting to see that the magnitude of such social learning is actually pretty small, and seems to occur only in vary specific ways.

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It’s almost time for NEGT again

Every year (since 2009) in the fall, all of the folks in southern California that work at the border of economics and CS/EE get together for the Network Economics and Game Theory (NEGT) workshop.  The hosting duties rotate between USC, UCLA, and Caltech, and this year the honor falls to us here at Caltech.

We’ve just finished finalizing the program — and it’s a great one.  So, if you’re in the area, come on by!

We’re holding it on Nov 20-21.  We’ll have a very reasonable start time each day of 10am so that folks try to avoid LA traffic in the morning, and we’ll end both days with a reception so that you can avoid traffic on the way home, too.  Markus Mobius (MSR) and Tim Roughgarden (Stanford) are the keynotes, and then we have a great list of invited speakers from all across Southern California to round out the program.

Attendance is free, but please register early, if possible, so that we can plan the catering!  Also, we’ll have a poster session for students to present work (and work-in-progress).  If you’re interested, just sign up when you register.

In praise of “neighborhood” workshops

Last week, we trekked from Caltech over to UCLA for the Southern California Network Economic and Game Theory (NEGT) workshop.    This was the fifth year for this event, which focuses on the intersection of CS, EE, and Economics. It rotates between USC, UCLA, and Caltech, and serves as a place where all the folks in the southern California area interested in topics at this intersection can get together and catch up.  This year, Mihaela van der Schaar and Bill Zame did a great job of hosting at UCLA.

I must say that I really love this sort of regional workshop — it’s one of my favorite events of the year.  We organize it with a bunch of faculty talks, pretty equally spilt across EE, CS, and Econ, and also pretty equally split across USC, UCLA, and Caltech.  Then, we bring in a few keynotes from outside of southern CA to round things out.  The quality of the talks is usually outstanding — and as a result, we tend to have 100+ people attend during the 2 days.  But, the best part is that the conversations that get started at the workshop really tend to extend throughout the year.  Since everyone is so close geographically, when common interests are discovered at the workshop, it tends to lead to multiple visits during the coming year… and since it’s been going on for five years now, we really have a community where folks in this area pretty much know everyone — regardless of the school and department they are from.  The workshop has really created a large and vibrant algorithmic game theory community here in the LA area, and one that is pretty unique in the sense that it truly bridges the three fields.  One thing that struck me this year was that it was often difficult to tell what department the speaker was from — by this point the topics & tools have really merged in our SoCal community.  I think this is really a consequence of the success of NEGT.

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