Friday, March 6, 2015

Some transplanted kidneys last a long time: Robert Phillips, transplanted in 1963, recently passed away

Colonial Beach man was longest-lived in world with donated kidney

"Phillips’ donor kidney lasted longer than any other in the world, except for those involving identical twins.

Phillips died in December at the age of 88.
"“It was a very new procedure at that time, and not always met with long-term success,” said Dr. Peter Ivanovich, a nephrologist with Northwestern University in Chicago. “There were many problems to overcome, there were limited anti-rejection medicines available at the time.”

Phillips had six siblings who were willing to donate a kidney, but doctors rejected each one.

Still, Phillips flew to Denver to meet Dr. Thomas Startzl, a pioneer in the field of transplants.

A prisoner in a nearby jail offered to donate his kidney to Phillips. It would have been the first time a living inmate donated an organ.

But at the last minute, doctors discovered the prisoner’s blood type wasn’t a match. Phillips was ready for surgery but there wasn’t a kidney for him.

Another sister, Ruth, traveled to Denver with him and begged Startzl to use one of her kidneys. Their blood types didn’t match either, and the odds of a successful outcome were low. When blood types match between donor and patient, the recipient’s body is less likely to reject the new organ.

“The chances were nil as we had completely different blood types and not before or since (to my knowledge) has this been successful,” Phillips wrote in a letter to a transplant society in 1972.

But he didn’t have long to live without a transplant. So Startzl decided to give it a try.

In the letter, Phillips wrote, “I feel great and would 100 times over take the transplant as opposed to the kidney machine. One is just existing, the other living.”

After the successful surgery, Phillips changed careers, then eventually retired to Colonial Beach and took care of his wife for six years before she died in 2006.

He never had trouble with his kidneys again.

“When he passed away, the amazing thing was, his heart was bad, things were bad, he was not in any pain and his kidney was still in good condition,” said Phillips’ niece, Beverly Ange, who took care of him in his final years."

Dynamic Allocation and Pricing: A Mechanism Design Approach, by Alex Gershkov and Benny Moldovanu

Here's a book I haven't had a chance to see yet, but looks worthwhile:

Dynamic Allocation and Pricing
A Mechanism Design Approach
By Alex Gershkov and Benny Moldovanu

Dynamic allocation and pricing problems occur in numerous frameworks, including the pricing of seasonal goods in retail, the allocation of a fixed inventory in a given period of time, and the assignment of personnel to incoming tasks. Although most of these problems deal with issues treated in the mechanism design literature, the modern revenue management (RM) literature focuses instead on analyzing properties of restricted classes of allocation and pricing schemes. In this book, Alex Gershkov and Benny Moldovanu propose an approach to optimal allocations and prices based on the theory of mechanism design, adapted to dynamic settings.

Drawing on their own recent work on the topic, the authors describe a modern theory of RM that blends the elegant dynamic models from the operations research (OR), management science, and computer science literatures with techniques from the classical mechanism design literature. Illustrating this blending of approaches, they start with well-known complete information, nonstrategic dynamic models that yield elegant explicit solutions. They then add strategic agents that are privately informed and then examine the consequences of these changes on the optimization problem of the designer. Their sequential modeling of both nonstrategic and strategic logic allows a clear picture of the delicate interplay between dynamic trade-offs and strategic incentives. Topics include the sequential assignment of heterogeneous objects, dynamic revenue optimization with heterogeneous objects, revenue maximization in the stochastic and dynamic knapsack model, the interaction between learning about demand and dynamic efficiency, and dynamic models with long-lived, strategic agents."

And apparently it's on sale 'til March 31: MIT Press writes,
"The MIT Press is delighted to announce the recent release of Dynamic Allocation and Pricing: A Mechanism Design Approach by Alex Gershkov and Benny Moldovanu. In celebration of its publication, we invite friends and colleagues of the authors to receive a 30% discount off the book’s cover price when ordering this title directly through our website,, with discount code MDAP30."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

First kidney exchange in Poland,February 2015

Here's the story, published February 18 2015: Poland's first living donor paired kidney exchange

"Poland's first kidney paired donation transplant was been performed last Tuesday by specialists at the Department of General and Transplant Surgery, University Hospital of the Infant Jesus in Warsaw.
Kidney extraction and transplantation surgeries were performed by Prof. Andrzej Chmura, Prof. Artur Kwiatkowski and Dr. Rafał Kieszek. Transplantation coordinator of the entire project was Aleksandra Tomaszek.
"The Department of General and Transplant Surgery, University Hospital of the Infant Jesus in Warsaw performs 40 percent of all transplants from living donors in Poland. 55 such procedures were performed in Poland in 2014."

And here (in Polish) is an announcement of a lecture on matching algorithms used in kidney exchange:
Teoria gier w służbie transplantologii. Wykład interdyscyplinarny prof. Marka Szopy.
Google Translate renders it like this:
Game theory in the service of transplantation. Interdisciplinary lecture prof. Brand Sheds
(Google translate is thorough: it also tries to translate Polish names...:)

"Today will be a lecture by Professor. Brand Sheds on the use of algorithms in transplantation. The lecture is held in connection with the February first Polish cross-kidney transplant operation. During the lecture, professor of physics will bring the way in which they were matched donor organs and global trends that are based on algorithms."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Video of two lectures: Market design and the flow of information (50 minute) and kidney exchange (20 minutes)

This is a video of the lunchtime talk I gave in early February at the Information Theory and Applications workshop. The talk introduces market design, and focuses for examples on labor market clearinghouses (in labor markets with couples), such as the National Resident Matching Program, and school choice.

And here is the talk I gave at the market design session immediately after:

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Behavioral macro economics

Here's the call for papers for an NBER conference:

"Call for Papers
NBER EFBEM Working Group
Andrew Caplin and Michael Woodford

We are organizing a meeting of the EFG research group on Behavioral Macro as part of the NBER's Summer Institute in Cambridge, MA, on Wednesday July 8. Note that the NBER Economic Fluctuations meeting itself is scheduled for Saturday, July 11, with other groups that may be of interest also meeting on other days of this same week. The meeting will run for the full day on July 8.

We are especially interested in papers that develop, test, and apply psychologically rich models of individual behavior, with implications for aggregate and/or financial market dynamics. One active focus of the group concerns perceptual constraints. The gap between potentially available information and subjectively perceived information has been the focus on much research in economics, psychology, and neuroscience. The resulting limits on comprehension have implications for inertial behavior and for both over-reaction and under-reaction to different types of shocks.

Another important focus is expectation formation, considering not simply how accurate or biased are forecasts, but also how people process past experience to predict the likely consequences of future actions. Research on this topic explores the implications of alternative models of expectation formation, both as explanations of positive phenomena and for purposes of policy design.

The group promotes work that tests models of perceptual constraints and expectation formation using survey data, laboratory and field experiments, and both individual-level and aggregate time series. Given its focus on psychologically and/or neuro-physiologically realistic theories, the group is actively interested in the generation of new forms of data that can aid in model estimation and policy evaluation.

We are writing to you because you may have a paper or abstract appropriate for the program.  (We prefer papers to abstracts.) If you have a paper that you would like to present, please upload a copy here by March 30, 2015: You are also welcome to forward this call for papers to colleagues who may have a paper suitable for the program.

We regret that, because of resource constraints, it will likely be impossible to respond to everyone who submits a paper.  You should expect to be contacted only if your paper has been included on the program.  In addition, this call for papers is widely distributed and the meeting room is small, so unfortunately we cannot invite everyone who receives this call to the meeting. Invitations and logistical information will be distributed in late April.  If you have any questions or need additional information please contact Rob Shannon in the NBER's Conference Department at 617/868-3900 or"

The marketplace for ideas: Academic Freedom and Anti-Semitism (and calls to boycott Israel)

In January, Larry Summers gave a speech at the Center for Law and Liberty at Columbia University Law School, titled Academic Freedom and Anti-Semitism. It is interesting not just for how he reflects on his statements on the subject when he was President of Harvard (he called proposed boycotts of Israel "anti-Semitic in effect if not intent"), but is also helpful for thinking about the once-again resurgent movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel and companies doing business there.

President Hennessy of Stanford recently spoke to the faculty Senate following a student Senate (re)vote that urged Stanford to divest from companies "facilitating State repression against Palestinians," with comments that clarified Stanford's policy (on boycotts and divestment generally, not on anti-Semitism in particular).

Following the student vote, I signed an online petition called Reject Stanford Divestment from Israel.  I recently signed another, and supported a third which isn't yet on the web. The letters are signed by people with a variety of positions on  Israeli policies and politics, but all disturbed by the singular obsession with Israel expressed by movements to boycott and divest from it.

I'm a reluctant signer of letters in general, and I imagine that everyone who signs a joint letter might have written with different wording or emphasis if they were writing on their own. But that didn't stop me from adding my name to these, under the circumstances.

Here's a Stanford Daily story on that student senate vote: Senate reverses divestment vote, passes resolution

As the story notes, we're not talking about a big vote: "The re-vote saw 10 Senators vote in favor of the bill, while four voted against and one Senator abstained."

But the world remains a dangerous place: here's a statement from a consortium of California Jewish community organizations, focusing in part on the recent murders in France and Denmark: Against the Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism

That statement concludes with this:
"History has shown that whenever one group is attacked, others are inevitably targeted as well. Let us stand together against all forms of hate and racism."

Update: From the NY Times, March 5 2015--In U.C.L.A. Debate Over Jewish Student, Echoes on Campus of Old Biases, reports on a UCLA undergrad, interviewing for student government position, being initally voted down after being asked "“Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community,” ...“how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”

Monday, March 2, 2015

Medical Matches: A Market Design Perspective. March 4 at Stanford Med

I'll speak on March 4 at the Stanford medical school. I gather that everyone is welcome, but you have to register in advance.

MEDICAL MATCHES: A Market Design Perspective
What Match Day, kidney donors, and economic theory have in common.

March 4, 2015
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Register Now

Join the Stanford University Medical Center Alumni Association for an evening with Nobel Prize Winner Alvin Roth, MS ’73, PhD ’74, as he explains how he uses economic theory and marketplace algorithms to systemize courtship in real world settings. From redesigning the National Residency Matching Program to helping surgeons maximize transplant exchange programs, he will share how the economics of transactions help us find new ways of connecting.

Space is limited. Pre-registration is required. Register now!

Alvin Roth is the Craig and Susan McCaw professor of economics at Stanford University and the Gund professor of economics and business administration emeritus at Harvard University. Roth has made significant contributions to the fields of game theory, market design and experimental economics, and is known for his emphasis on applying economic theory to solutions for "real-world" problems. In 2012, he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences jointly with Lloyd Shapley for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The End of Privacy: special issue of Science

Privacy: use it or lose it. Likely to be important both for market design and for civil rights...

I haven't yet read this special issue of Science on privacy, but it looks like fun.

The End of Privacy

  • From big data to ubiquitous Internet connections, technology empowers researchers and the public—but makes traditional notions of privacy obsolete


  • Attack suggests need for new data safeguards.
  • Facial recognition software could soon ID you in any photo.
  • "Voiceprints" offer convenience and security, but they may pose privacy issues.
  • After the Snowden revelations, U.S. mathematicians are questioning their long-standing ties with the secretive National Security Agency.
  • Unmanned aircraft may soon be everywhere; how they will affect privacy is still unclear.
  • When new or dangerous infectious diseases strike, public health often trumps personal privacy.
  • Medical devices connected to the Internet are vulnerable to sabotage or data theft.
  • Software lets you use location-based apps without revealing where you are.
  • Scientists can no longer guarantee patients' privacy. They're looking for new ways to build trust.
  • A browser extension masks your true interests with customized decoy questions.