Fall 2019

Understanding Fairness in Online Allocation

Tuesday, Mar. 2, 2021 12:10 pm12:40 pm

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Siddhartha Banerjee (Cornell University)



Back in September 2019, I had talked about fairness in online allocation, and in particular, on the problems faced by foodbanks in their operations, and suggested that this is a topic that deserved close attention. Unfortunately, given the events of the last year, this is more true now than ever before.

Relevance notwithstanding, understanding fairness in allocations is one of the most beautiful and active topics today, with deep connections to market design, optimization and normative philosophy. Building on a foundational result of Varian's that situates fairness in the context of axiomatic, economic and optimization settings, I will describe some of our work in (a) understanding market mechanisms for fair online allocation based on artificial credits, (b) the power and limits of optimization approaches, and (c) how modern techniques in stochastic control lead to online allocation algorithms with strong fairness guarantees, and how these methods work in practice for food-bank allocation.