Fair Resource Allocation: From Theory to Practice
We study the problem of fairly allocating a set of indivisible items among n agents. Typically, the literature has focused on one-shot algorithms. In this talk we depart from this paradigm and allow items to arrive online. When an item arrives we must immediately and irrevocably allocate it to an agent. A paradigmatic example is that of food banks: food donations arrive, and must be delivered to nonprofit organizations such as food pantries and soup kitchens. Items are often perishable, which is why allocation decisions must be made quickly, and donated items are typically leftovers, leading to lack of information about items that will arrive in the future. Which recipient should a new donation go to? We approach this problem from different angles.In the first part of the talk, we study the problem of minimizing the maximum envy between any two recipients, after all the goods have been allocated. We give a polynomial-time, deterministic and asymptotically optimal algorithm with vanishing envy, i.e. the maximum envy divided by the number of items T goes to zero as T goes to infinity. In the second part of the talk, we adopt and further develop an emerging paradigm called virtual democracy. We will take these ideas all the way to practice. In the last part of the talk I will present some results from an ongoing work on automating the decisions faced by a food bank called 412 Food Rescue, an organization in Pittsburgh that matches food donations with non-profit organizations.