Balaji Prabhakar : 2011 Plenary Session


Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Location: Fisher Conference Center, Arrillaga Alumni Center

"It Pays to Do the Right Thing: Incentive Mechanisms for Societal Networks"
9:45am - 10:15am


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".


Balaji Prabhakar is a faculty member in the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Stanford University. His research interests are in computer networks; notably, in designing algorithms for the Internet and for Data Centers. Recently, he has been interested in Societal Networks: networks vital for society's functioning, such as transportation, electricity and recycling systems. He has been involved in developing and deploying incentive mechanisms to move commuters to off-peak times so that congestion, fuel and pollution costs are reduced.

He has been a Terman Fellow at Stanford University and a Fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has received the CAREER award from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Erlang Prize, the Rollo Davidson Prize, and delivered the Lunteren Lectures. He is a co-recipient of several best paper awards.