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POLISCI 33N: How We Decide: Social Choice in the Age of Algorithms (MS&E 33N)

The digital revolution arrived with the promise of improving human life, including through its ability to transform the way in which we make social decisions. But one of the most common critiques today is that unstructured interactions in social media and online platforms have actually set us back by spreading fake news, amplifying polarization, and failing to aggregate our diverse views and opinions into collective choices that move our society forward. nnHow should social decisions be made in the age of algorithms? We will approach this question through the lens of social choice theory, and connect this theory from economics and political science to the potential design of algorithms that aggregate our diverse preferences and information. We will review various systems of preference and information aggregation in small groups as well as large societies, including voting systems, bargaining protocols, and methods of deliberation. We will also describe decision making problems that ari more »
The digital revolution arrived with the promise of improving human life, including through its ability to transform the way in which we make social decisions. But one of the most common critiques today is that unstructured interactions in social media and online platforms have actually set us back by spreading fake news, amplifying polarization, and failing to aggregate our diverse views and opinions into collective choices that move our society forward. nnHow should social decisions be made in the age of algorithms? We will approach this question through the lens of social choice theory, and connect this theory from economics and political science to the potential design of algorithms that aggregate our diverse preferences and information. We will review various systems of preference and information aggregation in small groups as well as large societies, including voting systems, bargaining protocols, and methods of deliberation. We will also describe decision making problems that arise in modern applications, such as distributed systems like blockchains and Wikipedia, as well as applications of topical interest such as the assignment of children to schools, the design of congressional districts, and the direct involvement of communities in participatory budgeting. nnA key objective of the class will be to get students to think about how social choice theory can be applied to real-life problems through the design of algorithms. There are no prerequisites, but students should come prepared to use high school level mathematics and deductive reasoning.
Terms: Aut | Units: 4
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