"Data, Dollars, and Algorithms: The Computational Economy"

Thursday, January 19, 2017
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Harvard University Science Center, Hall B, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge MA 02138

You buy lunch from a food truck and pay by waving your cell phone; before you’ve finished your sandwich, the transaction is posted to your bank account. This is an example of how computer technology lubricates the economy. At a deeper level, computation is also essential to many aspects of financial engineering—portfolio selection, risk management, high-speed trading, the design of new market mechanisms such as online auctions, and even algorithms for the donation and exchange of human organs. With Bitcoin, money itself has become a computational object. And yet there remain pitfalls in economic life that algorithmic methods have so far failed to overcome. We still struggle to forecast and control macroeconomic cycles of boom and bust and to deal with inequities of wealth distribution. Merely measuring the state of the economy (productivity, employment, inflation) is slow and imprecise. Can abundant data and computational power play a role in improving this situation?

This symposium will explore how access to copious streams of data and powerful computing resources are transforming our understanding of economic activity—and how these same tools are changing the nature of the economy itself.

David Parkes, Professor of Computer Science and Area Dean of Computer Science, Harvard University
Brian Hayes, Senior Writer for American Scientist; Associate in Computer Science, Harvard University; and, Y Combinator Research Fellow
Pavlos Protopapas, Scientific Program Director, Institute for Applied Computational Science, Harvard University
Neil Shephard, Professor of Economics and of Statistics, Harvard University


8:30 AM Coffee
9:00 AM Welcome and Introduction
9:15 AM Title: “Data, computing and transformation in the financial industry”
Presenter: R. Martin Chavez, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Goldman Sachs
9:55 AM Title: "High-frequency trading and a response from market design"
Presenter: Eric Budish, Professor of Economics, University of Chicago
10:35 AM Coffee Break
10:55 AM   Title: "Bitcoin and the blockchain: A new computational perspective on money"
Presenter: Aviv Zohar, Sr. Lecturer, School of Engineering and Computer Science, Hebrew University
11:35 AM Title: "Hopes and worries of blockchain commercial use"
Presenter: Hanna Halaburda, Visiting Professor of Management, NYU
12:15 PM Lunch (not provided)
2:00 PM   Title: “Modern organ exchanges: Algorithms, market designs, and opportunities"
Presenter: Tuomas Sandholm, Professor of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
2:40 PM Panel Discussion: The Computational Economy
Moderator: Paul Solman, Economics correspondent, PBS NewsHour, WGBH
Participants: Eric Budish, R. Martin Chavez, Hanna Halaburda, and David Parkes, Professor of Computer Science and Area Dean of Computer Science at Harvard University
3:25 PM Coffee Break
3:40 PM  Title: “Opportunities and challenges: Lessons from analyzing terabytes of scanner data”
Presenter: Serena Ng, Professor of Economics, Columbia University
4:20 PM Title: "Dynamic pricing in a labor market: Surge pricing and flexible work on the Uber platform"
Presenter: Keith Chen, Associate Professor of Economics, UCLA
5:00 PM Close