I was at Liverpool in early September for two back-to-back conferences/workshops. Both of the meetings were on interdisciplinary areas related to computer science and economics.
The first meeting was on market based control and was funded by BAE, BT, HP and EPSRC. Among other things, market based control involves designing automated agents, which is especially relevant to the financial sector. The general theme of the project as quoted from the website is:
The problems of understanding, modelling, and above all, managing the complexity of large distributed systems are among the most pressing in contemporary computer science. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the use of economic methods for the design, management and control of complex computational systems.
The second meeting was on computational social choice which is closer to my research focus. It was great to meet people I ran into in Dagstuhl last year. Computational social choice includes the study of voting systems, coalition formation, social networks, ranking systems and auctions. The area is summarised on the website:
Computational social choice is a new discipline emerging at the interface of social choice theory and computer science. It is concerned with the application of computational techniques to the study of social choice mechanisms, and with the integration of social choice paradigms into computing.
I also got to explore Liverpool a bit. The city was named the European Capital of Culture for 2008. It was evident that the locals were proud of this honour and I noticed various events being organised under this theme.
It appears the rapidly growing areas of computational social choice and market based control have a lot of unexplored territory and many rich open problems. It is fascinating to see how some of the foundational work is directly relevant to companies such as EBay, Google and Yahoo.