Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 16:30
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets? Why does glue not stick to the inside of the bottle? Why is lemonade made with artificial flavor but dishwashing liquid made with real lemons? How can I avoid traffic jams and be paid for it? While the first three are some of life's enduring questions, the fourth is the subject of a traffic decongestion research project at Stanford University. In this talk, I will briefly describe this project and, more generally, discuss incentive mechanisms for Societal Networks--- networks which are vital for a society's functioning; for example, transportation, energy, healthcare and waste management. I will talk about incentive mechanisms and experiments for reducing road congestion, pollution and energy use, and for improving "wellness" and good driving habits. Some salient themes are: using low-cost sensing technology to make societal networks much more efficient, using price as a signal to co-ordinate individual behavior, and intelligently "throwing money at problems".