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Seminar Archive 2011






  • 10/07/11 - Dario Nardi, Professor of Anthropology and founder of the Human Complex Systems Degree Program at UCLA, "Instructional Practices for Teaching Systems Concepts" [Announcement] Teaching Systems Concepts.pdf 
  • 10/14/11 - Arthur Brock, The Geek Gene, "A Living Systems Model of Wealth" [Announcement] [Prezi 1 Meta-currency Strategy and Vision] [Prezi 2 New Economy New Wealth]  
  • 10/21/11 - Scott Heckbert, Research Assistant Professor, Institute for Sustainable Solutions at PSU [Announcement] [Link for elluminate recording] (We apologize that the recording started a few minutes into the presentation.)  
  • 10/28/11 - Dora Raymaker, Participatory Action Research: Science and Social Change [Announcement] [Link for elluminate recording] sysc_sem_2011-10-28.pdf 
  • 11/04/11 - Ida Kubiszewski, Research Assistant Professor, Institute for Sustainable Solutions at PSU [Announcement] [Link for elluminate recording] 2011-11-04_SystemSciences_econ of info.ppt  
  • 11/11/11 - University closed.  
  • 11/18/11 - Alison Loercher, Acupuncturist at Seven Star Acupuncture, [Announcement] [Link for remote participation]
  • 12/02/11 - Richard B. Norgaard, Professor of Energy and Resources at University of California-Berkeley, Postponed. Alternate topic below. [Link for remote participation] [Announcement]

  • DATE: Friday, December 2nd, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    The scheduled presenter, Professor Richard Norgaard, asked to postpone his presentation until next (Winter) term. Instead, we will watch and discuss the following three TED talks.

    Eric Berlow: How complexity leads to simplicity (4 min)

    Nicholas Christakis: The hidden influence of social networks (18 min)

    Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world (15 min)

    Here is the link for people who want to attend our seminar remotely:

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    DATE: Friday, November 18th, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM
    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104
    PRESENTER: Alison Loercher, L.Ac.

    TITLE: Organ and Elemental Systems in Chinese Medicine

    SUMMARY: Alison will review the basics of physiological functioning from a holistic traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, offering insight and food for thought about this 2,000 year old system of looking at our health as a microcosm of our environment.

    BIO: Currently practicing in Portland, Oregon, Alison has both studied and practiced Traditional Chinese Medicine here and abroad.

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    DATE: Friday, November 4th, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM
    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104
    PRESENTER: Ida Kubiszewski

    TITLE: New ways to manage information as a good that improves with use

    ABSTRACT: Information has some unique characteristics. Unlike most other goods and services, it is neither rival (use by one prevents use by others) nor non-rival (use by one does not affect use by others), but is enhanced with increased use, or ‘additive’. Therefore a unique allocation system for both the production and consumption of information is needed. Under the current market-based allocation system, production of information is often limited through the exclusive rights produced by patents and copyrights. This limits scientists' ability to share and build on each other's knowledge. We break the problem down into three separate questions: (1) do markets generate the type of information most important for modern society? (2) are markets the most appropriate institution for producing that information? and (3) once information is produced, are markets the most effective way of maximizing the social value of that information? We conclude that systematic market failures make it unlikely that markets will generate the most important types of information, while the unique characteristics of information reduce the cost-effectiveness of markets in generating information and in maximizing its social value. We then discuss alternative methods that do not have these shortcomings, and that would lead to greater overall economic efficiency, social justice and ecological sustainability. These methods include monetary prizes, publicly funded research from which the produced information is released into the public domain, and status driven incentive structures like those in academia and the “open-source” community.

    BIO: Dr. Ida Kubiszewski is a Research Assistant Professor in the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, at Portland State University. She is also the Managing Editor for a new magazine/journal hybrid called Solutions and one called Reviews of Ecological Economics. Ida is a co-founder and former-Managing Editor of the Encyclopedia of Earth. Dr. Kubiszewski is the author or co-author of dozen's of scientific papers. She is a Junior Fellow at the National Council for Science and the Environment and sits on the steering committees or advisory boards of various organizations including the Ecosystem Service Partnership, Environmental Information Coalition, and the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics. Ida received her B.A. in Astronomy and Physics from Boston University and her M.A. in Energy and Environmental Analysis through the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies also at Boston University. She received her Ph.D. through the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. Her dissertation topic was 'Searching for the Sweet Spot: Managing Information as a Good that improves with Use.'

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    DATE: Friday, October 28th, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM
    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104
    Dora Raymaker

    TITLE: Participatory Action Research: Science and Social Change

    ABSTRACT: Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a general collaborative approach to inquiry that includes research "subjects" as members of the research team. Useful in any setting involving groups of people, PAR has revolutionized research with minority communities. Some "flavors" of PAR, such as Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) have been developed to address issues of power and privilege, to change dynamics between science, society, and minorities, and to enable and encourage systems change. This talk discusses the theory and practice of PAR as a research approach, drawing from real world examples in health sciences research with minority communities defined by disability or race.

    BIO: Dora Raymaker, MS, co-directs the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE,, a community-campus partnership based at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). Her research interests include complex systems, social dynamics, and the impact of community-campus partnerships on science and public policy.

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    DATE: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM
    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104
    PRESENTER: Scott Heckbert

    TITLE: Complex systems models for growing and collapsing societies

    ABSTRACT: Simulation models can be used to represent processes in both the biophysical and social-economic domains. Combining these can create a system where human-environmental feedbacks can be quantified, and the system can be tested under different scenarios. An example of this is the MayaSim model, which represents the geography and economy of the ancient Maya civilization. The model measures environmental and economic sustainability by building the system from the bottom up and testing it under combinations of factors that may have led to the dramatic reorganization of the Maya society at approximately 800AD. Models such as this allow for quantifying the way that societies undermine their natural capital to generate wealth and complex social organizations, but in the end are subject to slow environmental processes such as forest ecology and soil regeneration, as well more frequent events such as droughts.

    BIO: Scott Heckbert is a research assistant professor at Portland State University's Institute for Sustainable Solutions and previously worked as an environmental economist with CSIRO, Australia. Scott's research applies environmental economics using simulation modeling of integrated social-ecological systems. Research topics include economics of greenhouse gas mitigation, modeling the rise and fall of ancient societies, market-based instruments for environmental management, water quality improvement for tropical reefs, modeling patterns of urban sprawl, rangelands management, and supporting Indigenous land management for environmental and cultural benefits. Scott is currently developing complex systems models using combined agent-based, cellular automata and network models for the project Integrated History of People on Earth (IHOPE), simulating the rise and reorganization of ancient societies such as the Classic Maya and Great Zimbabwe. Scott develops spatially-explicit simulation models which represent biophysical and human processes in response to climate variability, with the goal of building quantitative metrics for resilience theory which can be used to enhance resilient support systems or warn of vulnerabilities. Scott has used agent-based modeling and experimental economics to embed human decision makers within models in order to test theories on human economic behavior. An overall research goal has been the calibration and validation of complex systems models.

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    DATE: Friday, October 14th, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM
    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104
    PRESENTER: Arthur Brock

    TITLE: A Living Systems Model of Wealth

    ABSTRACT: An introduction to the Metacurrency Project and the use of currencies as social DNA which organizes our corporations, institutions and economies.

    BIO: Arthur Brock builds targeted currencies that are at the core of the emerging post-industrial economy. He has created more than a hundred designs for multi-currency systems and his software company has built and deployed dozens of those systems. Initially, Arthur put his degree in Artificial Intelligence to use at GM, Chrysler & Hughes, but he soon realized he was committed to bringing intelligence to social architectures rather than to computers. He started student-run schools and award-winning, employee-run businesses and discovered that the self-managing feedback loops needed to operate these types of organizations were built on particular patterns of incentives and measurement. He began to unlock the social DNA by which groups operate and uncover the critical role of currencies as carriers of that social DNA. Arthur’s designs include currency systems for: collaborative scientific research, sustainable fishery management, corporate compensation plans, employee stock options, community-based economic development, business barter and exchange, triple-bottom-line trade credits, open source software development, customer loyalty programs, water rights, recirculating gift certificates, community service, employee performance management, arts & culture development, efficient resource sharing & management, and community & environmental impact assessment. Based in Denver, Colorado, Arthur Brock consults worldwide with organizations which are actively restructuring themselves for the new economy.

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    DATE: Friday, October 7th, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM
    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104
    Dario Nardi, PhD

    TITLE: Instructional Practices for Teaching Systems Concepts

    15-minute presentations on the following three topics:

    I. Live Group Simulations Promote Learning of Systems Concepts
    Systems concepts such as attractors, bifurcation, chaotic behavior, and emergence may be hard for learners to grasp. Even when they follow a lecture or demonstration, they may wonder about practical use. How might we more effectively convey systems concepts? For fourteen years, I have used group activities to stimulate learning of systems concepts and multi-agent behavior in general. The activity might involve as few as ten participants or 150-plus. Whether you have 10 minutes, 90 minutes, or 4 weeks, there is an effective simulation. I will discuss principles of effective simulation and briefly describe three such simulations. The first example, a 10-minute simulation, relies on a simple algorithm where students sit and stand in class based on certain conditions. The second takes students outside to follow one of ten simple rules, with fascinating results that show definite, repeatable patterns even as each simulation generates a unique historical path. Finally, I will showcase the Tavistock method, a 4-week small group activity that highlights numerous concepts, including the value of viewing groups as living systems and how a unique culture emerges from easily stated, though paradoxical, challenges. Finally, I will highlight the value of physical props and use of physical space, with a conjecture: emergence occurs most in multi-agent systems located in a space.

    II. Trait-Based Meme Diffusion Through Multi-Agent Friendship Networks
    How might we accurately and simply model the diffusion of information through a social system? Classic diffusion assumes a homogeneous population and relies on a single equation of growth with a coefficient. In contrast, multi-agent simulation affords a heterogeneous population where some agents are more or less likely to notice, accept or share a meme. The multi-agent approach reproduces real-world oddities in diffusion. But what about the meme itself? As observers or even policymakers, we are unlikely to notably alter people’s preferences. Thus, we might wish to know how to tailor a meme to increase its acceptance within a population. Doing so requires we “look inside” the meme, at its elements, rather than treating it as an atomic unit. But how can we simply characterize a meme in a way that’s relevant to agents? I will show a working simulation that addresses this challenge. Specifically, the simulation generates a large population of heterogeneous agents with traits based on demographic trends; then, it links those agents into a friendship network based on trait compatibility; and finally, it introduces a set of example memes that are characterized in terms of the agents‘ own traits, with acceptance and transference handled in a fuzzy way.

    III. Nonlinear Training Scenarios Assess Decision-Making in Context
    Engaging learners in a design process often asks them to consider questions they might miss in a traditional learning environment. Design also helps students internalize material and help them “reality test” their ideas. Although engineering students--and fine arts students--are used to design, many other students from the physical and social sciences and humanities are not. How can we engage them to internalize design concepts. Design often invokes many questions. What tangible goals are we striving to meet? What resources do we need, and how to qualify or budget resource use? Who is using the resulting design? How well will the result work for them? How might we solicit and integrate feedback? What is our creative process to ensure a best possible result? Are there best-practices and reliable principles? And many more questions. I focus on interactive fiction training scenarios because this blends topics that students from across the academic disciplines are familiar with, from virtual cultural explorations to medical problem solving. I also focus on decision-making in context because students in many disciplines will go on to decision making positions in their careers and will lack preparation to understand how their decisions will play out in unexpected, nonlinear ways that may vary with context and/or defy expectations.

    BIO: Dario is a founder of UCLA’s Human Complex Systems degree program, winner of UCLA’s annual Distinguished Teaching award, and author/coauthor of numerous books including “Neuroscience of Personality”. He received his degree from SUNY Binghamton in Systems Science. His undergraduate degree is Aerospace Engineering from USC. Dario is also the founder and CEO of Radiance House media and books.

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    DATE: June 3, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: David Burke

    TITLE: "Evolving machine morality strategies through multiagent simulations"

    ABSTRACT: There is a general consensus among robotics researchers that the world of the future will be filled with autonomous and semi-autonomous machines. There is less of a consensus, though, on the best approach to instilling a sense of 'machine morality' in these systems so that they will be able to have effective interactions with humans in an increasingly complex world. In my talk, we take a brief look at some existing approaches to computational ethics, and then describe work we've undertaken creating multiagent simulations involving moral decision-making during strategic interactions. In these simulations, agents make choices about whether to cooperate with each other based on each agent's weighting of five moral attributes (reciprocity, harm avoidance, loyalty, authority, purity). Our hope is that watching how these populations evolve over time can provide insights into how large numbers of distributed, autonomous systems might be programmed with respect to moral decision-making and behavior.

    BIO: David Burke leads the Active Defense Program Area at Galois, Inc. The goal of this program is to translate computer science research into effective real-world solutions to the challenges of host and network-based cybersecurity. The threat landscape is constantly evolving, and Galois solutions developed under this program are designed to adapt, mitigate, and defeat these evolving threats. Mr. Burke received a M.S. in Computer Science from the Oregon Graduate Institute in 1998, and a B.S.M.E. from Lehigh University in 1983. He has over 15 years of experience in the application of mathematical modeling, machine learning, and data visualization to problems in the social sciences, with a specialization in Bayesian techniques for reasoning under uncertainty. His M.S. thesis was on the subject of the automatic generation of compilers from high-level specifications. At Galois, he conducts research into logics for reasoning about trust in the design of secure systems, and techniques for ensuring robust decision-making in multi-agent systems.

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    DATE: May 27, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Chris Mooers

    TITLE: "Systems ideas for the scientific and societal imperatives of the Coastal Ocean"
    SUBTITLE: "Case of the BP Oil Gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, Spring & Summer 2010"

    ABSTRACT: In recent decades, great progress has been made in advancing the scientific understanding of the coastal ocean (i.e., the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)) across a broad set of disciplines. Simultaneously, the societal use of the coastal ocean has skyrocketed through, for example, increased shipping & boating, sports & commercial fishing, and exploitation of non-living resources, such as, oil & gas extraction and sand & gravel mining. International law and national policy assign coastal nations the responsibility for stewardship (i.e., wise management) of their respective EEZs. The scope of the stewardship and applications can be summarized as (1) routine maritime operations (e.g., optimum ship routing, non-deleterious offshore waste disposal, and safe mineral extraction), (2) marine emergency management (e.g., toxic spill response, search-and-rescue events, and homeland security incidents), and (3) marine environmental and ecological management (e.g., monitoring eutrophication events, hypoxic/anoxic zones, and harmful algal blooms; ecosystem-based regulation of fisheries; re-construction of environmental and ecological events through modeling studies, and simulation of the response of the EEZ to various climate change scenarios). However, there is a shortage of good examples of such management/stewardship, perhaps because of an unmet need for new interfaces between the natural scientists on one hand and the engineers, social scientists, and the society-at-large on the other hand. It is argued that one significant component of the needed interfaces is a coastal ocean prediction system comprised of observing subsystems (sensor networks), advanced dynamical (numerical) modeling subsystems, and their “coupling” through skill assessment, data assimilation, and system design. There is clearly a need for a Systems Engineering approach where a user-and-sponsor-based stakeholder group establishes user-requirements and corresponding performance metrics, governance mechanisms are developed, a first-generation system is designed and built, information products are disseminated, and the major parts of the overall system are evaluated as the basis for designing a second-generation system. Because a national program is needed, yet many issues of the coastal ocean have a “regional” character, a Systems Science approach may also be needed to address the respective granularity, connectivity, and resiliency requirements for the broad sets of applications and users involved. The example of the Gulf of Mexico’s highly variable circulation and its BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill (gusher) in 2010 serves to illustrate some of these points.

    BIO: Chris Mooers joined the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department as an Affiliated Research Professor in 2008, following his retirement from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) of the University of Miami. His variegated career includes receiving a Ph.D. in (Physical) Oceanography from what is now the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Science (COAS), Oregon State University in 1969. His research interests include mesoscale (fronts, eddies, and meandering jets) physical oceanography, transient wind-driven coastal ocean circulation, and coastal ocean prediction via observations and numerical models.

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    DATE: May 20, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Olena Kostyshyna

    TITLE: "Social and individual learning in a New Keynesian model"

    ABSTRACT: In this paper I study the learnability of a rational expectations equilibrium solution under individual evolutionary learning in a New Keynesian model (Woodford (2003)). Woodford (2003) and Bullard and Mitra (2002) show that this model is determinate and expectationally stable (E-stable) when the Taylor principle is satisfied. Arifovic et al. (2008) show that the rational expectations equilibrium minimum state variable (REE MSV) solution is learnable in the case of social learning whether or not the Taylor principle is satisfied. In this paper, I apply individual evolutionary learning (IEL) in the same environment. Both social and individual learning allow for heterogeneity of expectations in contrast to recursive homogeneous learning in Bullard and Mitra (2002).

    I find that agents using IEL are not able to learn the REE MSV solution whether or not the Taylor principle holds. The intuitive explanation is that the social aspect of learning is essential to agents' coordination on the REE MSV solution. Social interaction and ability to learn from the actual decisions of others allows agents to imitate the best ideas of the population. I perform a sensitivity analysis by varying the implementation of IEL.

    BIO: Olena Kostyshyna has been working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics since September 2008, after graduating with a PhD in economics from Simon Fraser University, Canada. Olena's research interests include macroeconomics and monetary economics with a focus on adaptive expectations and learning, and also agent-based computational economics.

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    DATE: May 13, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Dan Hammerstrom

    TITLE: "Hardware acceleration of inference computing – The Numenta HTM Algorithm"

    ABSTRACT: In this presentation I will describe the latest version of the Numenta HTM Cortical Learning Algorithm and why it is interesting for doing research into radical new computer architectures. Then I will discuss the hardware acceleration research we are doing, and briefly look at some preliminary applications development.

    BIO: Dan Hammerstrom received the BS degree from Montana State University, the MS degree from Stanford University, and the PhD degree from the University of Illinois. He was an Assistant Professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at Cornell University from 1977 to 1980. In 1980 he joined Intel in Oregon, where he participated in the development and implementation of the iAPX-432, the i960, and iWarp. In 1988 he founded Adaptive Solutions, Inc., which specialized in high performance silicon technology (the CNAPS chip set) for image processing and pattern recognition. He is now a Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Associate Dean for Research in the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at Portland State University. Prof. Hammerstrom has joint appointments in the IDE (Information, Computation, and Electronics) Department at Halmstad University, Halmstad, Sweden and in the Biomedical Engineering Department of the Oregon Health & Science University.

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    DATE: May 6, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Linda George

    TITLE: "Novel approaches in addressing modeling and measurement challenges in improving urban air quality"

    ABSTRACT: In the last decade we have learned that air pollutants are far more detrimental to human health than previously known. The regulatory framework has yet to catch up with this new reality. In part, this is due to modeling and measurements constraints in seeking improved air quality in urban environments. This talk will focus on our work in addressing these challenges.

    BIO: Linda A. George is Professor and Chair of the Environmental Sciences and Management Department at Portland State University. She received her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Resources/Chemistry at PSU investigating free radical chemistry in the troposphere using laser-induced fluorescence measurement techniques for reactive gases. She was a founding partner of a successful environmental consulting firm and analytical lab in Portland, Oregon before returning to academia. Her current research interests includes monitoring and modeling of urban air pollutants, assessing human exposure of air pollutants using statistical models and GIS, development of measurement techniques for quantifying atmospheric species, sensing and analysis of urban climate modification and developing curriculum for atmospheric science education. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, USAID and several private foundations.



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    DATE: April 29, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Rossitza Wooster

    TITLE: "Regional trade agreements and the pattern of trade: A networks approach"

    ABSTRACT: This paper uses a complex network approach for the analysis of bilateral trade data between countries over the period 1970-2000. We compute the network community structure for every year between 1970 and 2000 and compare it to null community structures that emerge from various models based on regional and geographic classifications, the implementation of RTA's and/or on gravity models of trade. Our results show that RTA formation appears to have a cyclical pattern on the world trade network community structure. We document periods where bilateral trade flows and the structure of the world trade network are consistent with those predicted by formation of RTAs. These cycles occur in 1980-86 and 1990-96. Conversely, we also find periods in which the pattern in the world trade network is not explained by RTA formation. Two periods, 1986-1990 and 1997-2000, show a pattern of bilateral trade flows that moves away from the prediction that results from assuming RTA-formation as the driving force in the determination of the world trade network structure. Factors contributing to the latter parts of the cycle we document may be due to the growing role of foreign investment and decreased trade costs over the sample period.

    BIO: Rossitza B. Wooster (Ph.D., University of Oregon) is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Portland State University. She specializes in International Economics with a research focus on global trade issues and foreign direct investment activities by multinational firms in emerging and transition economies.



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    DATE: April 22, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Bala Krishamoorthy

    TITLE: "Integer optimization and computational algebraic topology"

    ABSTRACT: We present recently discovered connections between integer optimization, or integer programming (IP), and homology. Under reasonable assumptions, these results lead to efficient solutions of several otherwise hard-to-solve problems from computational topology and geometric analysis. The main result equates the total unimodularity of the boundary matrix of a simplicial complex to an algebraic topological condition on the complex (absence of relative torsion), which is often satisfied in real-life applications . When the boundary matrix is totally unimodular, the problem of finding the shortest chain homologous under Z (ring of integers) to a given chain, which is inherently an integer program, can be solved in polynomial time as a linear program. This result is surprising in the backdrop of a previous result, which showed the problem to be NP-hard when the homology is defined over the popularly used field of Z2, consisting of integers 0 and 1. This problem finds applications in several domains including coverage verification in sensor networks and characterizing tunnels in biomolecules. We also present new results on computing the flat norm of currents in the setting of simplicial complexes. Flat norm decomposition is a classical technique from geometric measure theory, and has been applied for several image analysis tasks. Our approach allows one to use flat norm computations in arbitrarily large dimensions - for instance, to denoise high dimensional datasets.

    BIO: Bala Krishnamoorthy is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics at Washington State University. After earning his Bachelors degree from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, he obtained a PhD in Operations Research from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His areas of research interest are diverse. Bala tackles theoretical and computational problems from the areas of algebraic topology and discrete optimization (integer programming and combinatorial optimization). He also works on several application areas, including computational approaches to protein structure and function, and models for human neck anatomy and physiology. He collaborates with mathematicians, computer scientists, biochemists, and bioengineers. More information is available from his web page at



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    DATE: April 15, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Joshua Hughes

    TITLE: "Systems views of the economics of sustainable development"

    ABSTRACT: The mainstream economics of the 20th century (and now 21st century) has often failed to predict what will happen--or explain what has happened--in the real world, even with (or because of?) an ever-increasing reliance on quantitative and computational methods. Since the mid-20th century a number of people part of, or closely associated with, the systems community--economists among them--have provided insights about what is wrong with "traditional" economics. Systems science offers a number of alternative methods for understanding economic systems that take heed of these criticisms, especially in the context of sustainable development. Yet, while promising, few of these alternatives have been rigorously validated with real-world data.

    This talk will include a brief overview of what is typically meant by "traditional" or "mainstream" economics followed by a discussion of the many systems ideas relevant to economics in the context of sustainable development: Prospect Theory, repeated games, the tragedy of the commons, agent-based modeling, system dynamics, the "spaceman" economy, Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety, catastrophe theory, the panarchy adaptive cycle, and Parson's societal system. The main focus of this talk will be on what high-level insights we can gain from these different methodologies right now and what is necessary if these insights and the ideas and methods from which they are derived are to be incorporated into mainstream thought. Discussion and criticism of these ideas are encouraged.

    BIO: Joshua Hughes is a third-year, core-option Ph.D. student and graduate, research, and teaching assistant in the PSU Systems Science Graduate Program. He received his B.S. in civil engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1993 and his M.S. in civil engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1995. He has more than a dozen years experience working as a geotechnical and environmental engineer in the Portland-Vancouver and San Francisco Bay areas providing investigations, recommendations, and oversight for a variety of residential, commercial, and public works projects. He is currently working with George Lendaris on research of higher-level applications of adaptive-critic-type methods of adaptive dynamic programming, and he has recently collaborated with Martin Zwick on a paper (in the revision process) showing how the panarchy adaptive cycle might be formalized using the cusp catastrophe. He is interested in information theory, cybernetics, reconstructability analysis, neural networks, fuzzy logic, catastrophe theory, game theory, as well as how systems ideas can be applied to large-scale problems such as sustainability. He is not an economist.  

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    DATE: April 8, 2011, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: George G. Lendaris

    TITLE: "Higher-level application of adaptive dynamic programming / reinforcement learning – a next phase for controls and system identification?"

    ABSTRACT: Humans have the ability to make use of experience while performing system identification and selecting control actions for changing situations. In contrast to current technological implementations that slow down as more knowledge is stored, as more experience is gained, human processing speeds up and has enhanced effectiveness. An emerging experience-based (“higher level”) approach promises to endow our technology with enhanced efficiency and effectiveness.

    The notions of context and context discernment are important to understanding this human ability. These are defined as appropriate to controls and system-identification. Some general background on controls, Dynamic Programming, and Adaptive Critic leading toAdaptive Dynamic Programming (ADP) will be provided.

    The higher-level application of Adaptive Dynamic Programming (ADP) is described, wherein ADP is employed to develop on-line algorithms that respond to changes in context by efficiently and effectively selecting designs from a repository of existing controller solutions– in contrast to the usual application of ADP that focuses on designing controllers directly. In this way, the ADP is said to be applied up a level from typical application.

    Key components of the approach include the notions of context, context discernment, and experience. These apply to applications in control and also to system identification.

    Details of the approach and its rationale will be described, including examples and recent developments of the underlying ideas.

    BIO: George G. Lendaris is Professor of Systems Science and Electrical & Computer Engineering at Portland State University.  

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    DATE: April 1, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Barry F. Anderson

    TITLE: "Building a decision aid right-side-out"

    ABSTRACT: Tools have long been available for improving decision making, yet people who have knowledge of these tools seem reluctant to use them. I consider multiple reasons why this might be so and consider multiple solutions, then present what I believe to be the world's most user-friendly decision aid, which is now nearly ready for beta testing and available at no cost at

    Wise Decider is believed to be unique in having the following features:

    1. A creative thinking guide and a critical thinking guide that provide context-sensitive advice for problem structuring, evaluation, and implementation.
    2. A decision table with cells in which objective descriptions of outcomes can be represented as text and subject evaluations of these outcomes can be represented as shades of gray.
    3. Rows in the decision table that can be re-ordered to explore different orders of preference for alternatives and columns that can be re-ordered to explore different ways of thinking about values.

    When additional funding becomes available, Wise Decider is planned to have the following unique features, as well:

    1. Automatic quantitative checks on problem structuring.
    2. Table-coloring, where white and black represent the best and worst outcomes in the table, rather than the best and worst outcomes on each value.
    3. Automatic sensitivity analysis.
    4. Automatic identification of value asymmetry for identifying win-win trades in conflict resolution.

    One currently unsolved problem, which I look forward to discussing, is how best to deal with risky decisions without losing user friendliness.

    BIO:  Barry F. Anderson is Professor Emeritus, Decision Psychology, Portland State University ( He earned his B.A. at Stanford University in 1957 and his Ph.D. at The Johns Hopkins University in 1963. Barry worked at the U of O from 1963-68 and at PSU from 1968-99. Courses taught include Personal Decision Making, Decision Psychology I, Decision Psychology II, Decision Psychology Laboratory, Conflict Resolution, Cognition, Bioethics, and Psychological Methods.

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    DATE: March 11, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: David Kinsella

    TITLE: "The illicit arms trade: A social network analysis"

    ABSTRACT: In recent years, researchers have increasingly turned their attention to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Small arms are difficult to track and are not the stuff of military parades, but they are immensely destructive. In addition to what is already circulating, a substantial percentage of what is newly produced enters the black market and is destined for conflict zones across the globe. I argue that the illicit trade in small arms shares some important properties with networked forms of organization studied by sociologists. I then employ quantitative methods developed for the study of social networks in an effort to show the basic structure of illegal small arms transfers worldwide. The analysis draws from my Illicit Arms Transfers Database (IATD) still in development, so the results make use of the most rudimentary information being collected. They are suggestive, however, and the analytical approach promises to shed considerable light on a corner of the international arms trade that is of great interest to the research and activist communities, and of great consequence to those in war-torn regions of the world.

    BIO:  David Kinsella (Ph.D. 1993, Yale University) is Professor and Chair of Political Science, and Director of the Public Affairs and Policy Ph.D. program. He teaches courses on world politics, international law and organization, and national security policy. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of International Studies Perspectives and is a former president of the International Studies Association's Midwest Region. Professor Kinsella has held faculty positions at American University and the University of Missouri, was a visiting professor at Yale and a Ralph D. Mershon postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State University. His books include World Politics: The Menu for Choice (with Bruce Russett and Harvey Starr), a leading textbook in the field, and The Morality of War: A Reader (edited with Craig L. Carr). Professor Kinsella's primary areas of research are the global arms trade, regional conflict, democratic peace, and just war theory, and his articles have appeared in a number of scholarly journals and edited volumes. His most recent research focuses on illicit arms trade networks and the implications for violent conflict and arms control.

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    DATE: March 4, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Marek Perkowski

    TITLE: "Modal Logic and its applications, explained using puzzles and examples"

    ABSTRACT: The talk introduces Modal Logic as an extension of classical propositional and First Order Logics. We discuss motivations of Lewis to create modal logic system, axioms and rules of proof. Several examples illustrate deriving theorems from axioms. "Muddy Children" puzzle is used to explain the principles of dealing with uncertainty problems where a temporal lack of response is used as additional information. Other examples include "Narrow Bridge" problem/game which relates to the problem of necessary evil in the world, robot planning and law and robot morality problems, especially related to military robots and use of force by police. Kripke semantics and Model Checking are explained on examples. The goal of the lecture is to present informally the main ideas of modal logic and related logics, such as Temporal or Deontic Logics, and some of their applications.

    BIO: Marek Perkowski obtained his M.S. degree in Electronics and Ph.D. degree in automatic control from Institute of Automatic Control, Department of Electronics, Technical University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland. He studied also pure mathematics at University of Warsaw. In years 1981-1983 he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and since 1983 he works for Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Portland State University where he is a full professor and director of Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. He worked for Cypress Semiconductor (co-author of WARP, the first FPGA compiler of VHDL), Intel Supercomputer, Sharp Microelectronics, GTE and other companies in areas of computer architecture, CAD tools for logic synthesis and image processing. Dr. Perkowski invented Kronecker Decision Diagrams and lattices and contributed to logic synthesis software that is used in US industry. In 1994 he worked for Machine Learning group in Wright Laboratories of U.S. Air Force applying logic decomposition as a machine learning approach to pattern recognition and continued this work on several grants. He is an author of more than 300 papers in CAD, logic synthesis, multiple-valued logic, machine learning, robotics and quantum computing. He had visiting professor and visiting scientist positions in the Netherlands, France, Japan and Korea. In years 2002-2004 he was professor in KAIST – Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology where he participated in research on humanoid robotics and quantum computing. He chaired the IEEE Technical Committee on Multiple-Valued Logic in years 2003-2005 and is currently chair of IEEE Computational Intelligence Society Task Force on Quantum Computing. His main current interests are in quantum circuits and algorithms, humanoid bipeds, emotional quantum robots, robotics for teenagers and Grover algorithm. He collaborates with many groups worldwide.

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    DATE: February 25, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Mehmet Vurkaç

    TITLE: "Some problems and solutions in the experimental science of technology: How to and how not to use and report Statistics in Computational Intelligence, with an experimental design from Computational Ethnomusicology"

    ABSTRACT: Statistics is the meta-science that lends validity and credibility to The Scientific Method. However, as a complex and advanced Science in itself, Statistics is often misunderstood and misused by scientists, engineers, medical and legal professionals and others. In the area of Computational Intelligence (CI), there have been numerous misuses of statistical techniques leading to the publishing of insupportable results, which, in addition to being a problem in itself, has also contributed to a degree of rift between the Statistics/Statistical Learning community and the Machine Learning/Computational Intelligence community. This talk surveys a number of misuses of statistical inference in CI settings, including well-known and more rarely discussed examples. These are followed by an overview of concepts and techniques that are central to model evaluation. Finally, an experimental design is presented for a statistically valid comparison of multiple hypotheses for a particular real-world problem combining Information Theory, Neural Networks, Statistics, and Computational Ethnomusicology.

    BIO: Mehmet Vurkaç is a Ph.D. candidate in Electrical & Computer Engineering. He completed his B.A. in Math-Physics at Whitman College in 1993, and his M.S. in ECE (DSP emphasis) at Portland State University in 1999. He started his doctoral studies in April 2002 after working in the music industry (Roland Corp.) for four years as a hardware engineer. His dissertation research is in Computational Intelligence (Neural Networks), with an Information Theory component and applications to the rapidly growing Computational Ethnomusicology subfield of Music Information Research (MIR). He served as an adjunct instructor at PSU’s ECE department 2003–2009, and at Whitman College in the Music Department (Sound Synthesis) in 1994. He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Renewable Energy at the Oregon Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. candidate in Electrical & Computer Engineering at PSU. His research and teaching interests are Neural Networks, Fuzzy Logic, Evolutionary Computation, Computational Ethnomusicology, Information Theory; Statistical Learning, Music Information Research, Psychoacoustics, Music Perception, the history and theory of Afro-Latin musics, Signals & Systems, DSP, Cognitive Science, and general education for critical thinking and social responsibility.

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    DATE: February 18, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Adrienne Fairhall

    TITLE: "Optimality in neural adaptation"

    ABSTRACT: Nervous systems tune themselves to the statistical structure of the stimuli they encounter. This sensitivity to statistics appears in phenomena ranging over many timescales, from the adaptation of vision to a rapid change in light level to the loss of ability to distinguish the sounds of non-native languages. While multiple neural mechanisms contribute to this on-line learning of stimulus distributions, we show that the intrinsic nonlinearities of single neurons provide them with the ability to represent time-varying stimuli optimally. While such sensitivity to stimulus statistics does not require learning, slower timescales of adaptation are consistent with optimal inference of statistical parameters of the changing stimulus ensemble.

    BIO: Adrienne Fairhall has a training in statistical physics from the Australian National University and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. In her postdoctoral work, she moved into the area of computational neuroscience, working first in the fly visual system with Bill Bialek at NEC and then in the retina, with Michael Berry at Princeton. She has been a faculty member of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington in Seattle since 2004.

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    DATE: February 11, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Jeff Fletcher and John Balwit

    TITLE: "The inclusive fitness wars: An update"

    ABSTRACT: The evolution of altruistic behavior is a long-standing puzzle in evolutionary biology. How could natural selection favor traits that involve individual self-sacrifice over traits for selfish behavior? Inclusive Fitness Theory (at nearly 50 years old) is considered by some evolutionary biologists to be the only explanation for the evolution of altruism; for others it is unnecessary, misleading, and of little use. This controversy has grown in recent years and positions on all sides have hardened. For example, a recent Nature publication compared modern inclusive fitness models to the epicycles of early astronomers, who performed complicated calculations in an effort to preserve the theory of an earth-centered solar system. On the other side, recent work by inclusive fitness advocates has claimed inclusive fitness theory is synonymous with natural selection itself, and that all detractors are misguided. Here we briefly review some of the background to this controversy and report on the development of a model that demonstrates that the evolution of suicidal aid (altruism) is possible even in the absence of inclusive fitness.

    BIOS: Jeff Fletcher's research focuses on understanding the relationship among different theories on the evolution of altruism. He is also interested in better understanding and making more explicit the role that models play in scientific inquiry. In addition, Jeff enjoys creating more cooperative learning environments in the classroom and introducing both graduate and undergraduate students to Systems Science ideas. He completed an NSF International Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of British Columbia where he did research in the Department of Zoology and taught in the Integrated Science Program. Jeff currently teaches in both the University Studies Program and the Systems Science Graduate Program at PSU. He has a B.S. in Biology, an M.S. in Computer Science, and a Ph.D. in Systems Science.

    John Balwit is a Ph.D. candidate in the PSU Systems Science Graduate Program. He is exploring the use of models to understand natural selection and cooperation. His interests include the use of models in educational and research contexts. Other research interests include: the visualization of information; the nature of emergence and self-organizing behavior in complex systems; and computation with cellular automata.

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    DATE: February 4, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Niles Lehman

    TITLE: "A convivial origin of life on the Earth: A cooperative network of RNA replicators"

    ABSTRACT: The origins of life on the Earth required the establishment of self-replicating systems capable of maintaining and evolving biological information. The hypercycle was developed by Eigen and Shuster to explain how sets of molecules could cooperate during primordial evolution and thus overcome many theoretical barriers to the advent of self-replication. A hypercycle is a functional organization of molecules in which separate genotypes cooperatively interact in a cyclical network to produce an evolutionary stable coalition that has a large information capacity. They are believed to be a realistic manner in which naked molecules could have self-organized and evolved prior to encapsulation in cell-like structures that could successfully compete as selfish replicators, but they have not been yet empirically observed in a molecular system composed solely of nucleic acids. In this talk, I will examine the ability of pools of RNA molecules to establish hypercyclic networks without the aid of outside agents. This work involves the fragments of the Azoarcus group I intron ribozyme that we have shown can cooperate to create a self-replicating entity. We have constructed a hypercyclic arrangements of three sets that can create hypercyclic networks of the third order (n = 3; p = 3), and I will discuss the mechanics of this system and its evolutionary potential.


    BS Chemistry UC Berkeley 1984
    MA Biochemistry UC Berkeley 1986 (thesis title "The meaning of life and the evolutionary development of the genetic code")
    PhD Evolutionary Biology UCLA 1990 (thesis title "The population genetics of coyotes, wolves, and foxes")
    Post-doc Scripps Research Institute (La Jolla) 1990-1993
    Post-doc UofO 1993-1995
    Assist. prof. - Biological Sciences, Long Beach State U. 1995-1997
    Assist. prof. - Biological Sciences, SUNY Albany 1997-2001
    Professor - Chemistry, PSU 2001-present (department chair since last September)

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    DATE: January 28, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Alireza Goudarzi

    TITLE: "On the effect of criticality and topology on learning in random Boolean networks"

    ABSTRACT: Random Boolean networks (RBN) are discrete dynamical systems composed of N automata with a binary state, each of which interacts with other automata in the network. RBNs were originally introduced as simplified models of gene regulation. In this presentation, I will present recent work done conjointly with Natali Gulbahce (UCSF), Thimo Rohlf (MPI, CNRS), and Christof Teuscher (PSU). We extend the study of learning in feedforward Boolean networks to random Boolean networks (RBNs) and systematically explore the relationship between the learning capability, the network topology, the system size N, the training sample T, and the complexity of the computational task. We find experimentally that for large system sizes N, there exists a critical connectivity Kc=2 that improves the learning in networks. We show that in finite size networks, the critical Kc scales as a power law of the system size N and the training sample T. During the learning process, the in-degree distribution evolves from a Poissonian to an exponential distribution. The improved learning capability is explained by a maximal topological diversity near Kc. Our findings have important implications for determining the optimal topology of complex dynamical networks that solve specific computational tasks.

    BIO: Alireza Goudarzi is a second-year Master's student of both Computer Science and System Science programs at Portland State University. He is currently working on his Master's thesis in Computer Science under Christof Teuscher and in Systems Science under George Lendaris. His research interests include neural information processing, contextual learning, and alternative computer architectures. His project "Information Processing in Random Boolean Networks" was awarded the third prize in 2010 Columbia-Willamette Chapter of Sigma Xi. His conjoint works with Christof Teusher (PSU), Natali Gulbahce (UCSF), and Thimo Rohlf (MPI) appeared in the book Theoretical and Technological Advancements in Nanotechnology and Molecular Computation: Interdisciplinary Gains by B. MacLennan. Last December he presented his paper coauthored with Christof Teuscher and Natali Gulbahce titled "Learning and Generalization in Random Automata Networks," at the 5th International ICST Conference on Bio-Inspired Models of Network, Information, and Computing Systems (BIONETICS 2010) in Boston.

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    DATE: January 21, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Mark Stephan

    TITLE: "Information disclosure and environmental performance"

    ABSTRACT: Scholars and policymakers increasingly argue that information disclosure programs such as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) should be used to supplement conventional environmental regulation. Yet we lack a clear understanding of how such programs work as well as the empirical data to confirm their success in achieving environmental quality objectives. To better understand the impacts of environmental information disclosure on corporate decision making, this paper develops an analytic framework drawn from theories of risk perception and communication, individual and corporate decision making, and social capital. I examine the importance of the TRI for facility level behavior through an analysis of mediating factors such as corporate capacity to reduce toxic releases and state governmental programs focused on reducing toxic waste. Most of the emphasis of this presentation is on the heuristics used to think about the influence of information on behavior, though a brief examination of some empirical analyses are also included. The empirical analyses come from an examination of variations across states in their proportion of facilities reducing pollution divided by the total number of facilities in a given state.

    BIO: Mark Stephan received a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University in the year 2000. After serving for two years as a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, he joined the faculty at Washington State University Vancouver in the fall of 2001. He teaches courses in American politics, including classes in public policy, environmental policy administration, and democratic theory. Dr. Stephan received a dissertation grant from Resources for the Future, a Washington-based environmental think tank, in 1997-1998. During his five years in Washington, D.C., Dr. Stephan also worked for the Environmental Protection Agency twice, first in the Office of Emergency and Remedial Response (OERR) and second in the Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation (OPEI). His research is in the areas of environmental information disclosure policy and citizen involvement in environmental decision-making. He has been published in the journals Social Science Quarterly and State and Local Government Review, among others. Working with Michael Kraft and Troy Abel, he has recently completed a book entitled Coming Clean: Information Disclosure and Environmental Performance.

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    DATE: January 14, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    FACILITATOR: Garry Sotnik

    TOPIC: "Can we increase people's knowledge of the PSU Systems Science Graduate Program?"

    ABSTRACT: The PSU Systems Science Graduate Program is a unique academic program, one of just a handful of systems science programs in the country. Not only does the program cross traditional disciplinary boundaries with a wide range of theories and general methods of problem solving applicable in mathematics, engineering, business administration, and the natural and social sciences, but it also draws students and faculty from many different disciplines with wide-ranging academic and professional experience. The complex problems of the present and the future demand this type of collaborative, transdisciplinary knowledge and research.

    Yet for all its uniqueness and relevance, the PSU Systems Science Graduate Program does not have an especially high profile. One readily available tool that could be used to remedy this state of affairs is the program website. Is our current website effective in informing its viewers about all the cool stuff happening in our program? Can the website be more user-friendly to visitors interested in complexity theory, artificial intelligence, simulation, sustainability, or the social sciences? Can visitors easily find out about the things we are working on and access our working papers? Do Google searches for terms related to systems science and complexity direct people to our program, one of the last remaining autonomous systems science programs in the U.S.?

    The goal of this seminar is to generate some ideas around how we can increase people's awareness of the Systems Science Graduate Program with a particular focus on how our program website can be improved. The discussion will be based on three general questions: (1) What type of content is most relevant to the program's goals and should be included on the website? (2) What type of services can or should the website offer? and (3) How should we go about making the changes in the short and long term? Seminar attendees, whether part of the program or not, are encouraged to discuss what drew them to the program and what aspects of it are likely to draw others to it.

    BIO: Garry Sotnik is a Ph.D. student in the Systems Science GraduateProgram at PSU. He obtained a Master's in Economics from Boston University and has worked as an economist and researcher both domestically and abroad. Garry's field of study focuses on social and ecological complex adaptive systems.

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    DATE: January 7, 2011

    LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

    PRESENTER: Maxwell Grad

    TITLE: "Prospect Theory: Decision Making Under Risk (Tversky and Hanneman 1981)"

    ABSTRACT: Tversky and Hanneman published the beginnings of Prospect Theory in an 1981 article titled "The Framing of Decisions and The Psychology of Choice." Using students at Columbia University, they tested the effect of people's perceptions of risk or gain based upon their calculations of utility. I'll be presenting their work, beginning with an overview of expected utility theory, incentives to cooperate or defect, and the mutual defection scenario, the Prisoner's Dilemma. Tversky and Hanneman's work demonstrates that the utility function is affected by framing the event as a loss or gain as well as the probability of the event. The dominant preference among respondents can be reversed from risk-taking to risk-averse depending upon presentation. Low probability events are given excessive weight, and middle and high probability events are downgraded. When given choices involving contingencies (a second choice dependent upon the first), human subjects react differently than if an equivalent single-stage problem is presented. In problems involving a non-payoff first choice, humans use only the second decision as a reference, called pseudocertainty. Finally, outcomes that do or do not connect to previous expenditures (sunk cost vs. minimal account) modify respondent preference for and against risk-taking/risk-averse strategies.

    BIO: Maxwell Grad (Benjamin Grad) is a Ph.D. student in the Systems Science Graduate Program at PSU. He obtained a Master's in Teaching from Seattle University in 2000 and taught high school mathematics in Vermont, Seattle, and Portland before joining the program. His field of study focuses on communicative networks, theories of learning and problem solving, and computer modeling.

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