“The Choice” Wrestled with Algorithms and the Future of Democracy and Markets

ANN ARBOR – February 8, 2019 – Business+Impact and U-M’s Center for the Study of Complex Systems gathered U-M scholars from across disciplinary boundaries to ponder big questions about how society should best choose the institutions/methodologies to make choices that will influence and contribute to a society’s or organizations’ ability to flourish. These institutions and mechanisms guide, manage, allocate, and harness society’s intellectual, financial, social, and ecological resources to decide on laws, policies, and leaders. 

It’s a big, hairy question: What does the future of society look like, and how is technology changing the way we solve our biggest challenges?

“The Choice” event, co-organized by Jerry Davis, Michigan Ross professor and associate dean for Business+Impact, asked faculty and researchers from across the University to question not just the choices we make when solving problems, but how those choices influence and contribute to our collective ability to flourish as a society.

“The Choice is not a new question,” Davis said. “But given advances in technology, it may have new answers.”

A highlight of the session was the lightning talks segment, examining approaches to measurement and allocation in the following areas:

  • Law  – J.J. Prescott, Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School
  • Dating and Social Life  – Fred Feinberg, Professor of Marketing, University of Michigan Ross School of Business
  • News and Information  – Ceren Budak, Assistant Professor of Information, University of Michigan School of Information
  • Self-Driving Cars – Bryant Walker Smith, Assistant Professor of Law, University of South Carolina, and Adjunct Professor, University of Michigan Law School
  • Community OrganizingEli Savit, Adjunct Professor, University of Michigan Law School; General Counsel, Office of the Mayor, City of Detroit
  • Bitcoin and Blockchain – Lynnette Shaw, Assistant Professor of Complex Systems, University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
  • Democracy – Johan Chu, Michigan Ross PhD graduate, Assistant Professor of Organizations and Strategy, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • EducationPaul Courant, Professor of Public Policy, Ford School of Public Policy and former U-M Provost

For the last part of the event, teams at tables examined subject areas of their own choosing, using a micro-charrette to extract the best ideas. Teams examined water infrastructure, savings plans, gerrymandering, homelessness, vaccinations, student applications, and access to transportation. They examined these issue through the lens of market, hierarchy, democracy, and algorithms, then worked on designed solutions to the issues presented.

Participants recognized that the challenges presented each required its own homologous main approach, however most problems are large enough to require a hybrid model. in a world of big data and large data sets, we should be able to move to a world where outcomes are personalized for people. Algorithms provide information, organizations provide infrastructure and execution, but democracies and markets need to help us make societal changes.

Media from the Event

Listen to podcasts of the lightning talks:
Law  | Dating and Social Life  | News and Information  | Self-Driving Cars  |  Community Organizing  | Bitcoin and Blockchain  | Democracy  | Education

View photos from the event

Read the Michigan Ross Blog Post


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