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Continuing to be impressed with the 28 year old me

In the wake of coming across my network and matching notes, where the 28 year old me taught the 50 year old me some things I never realized I knew, in a way that leaves (the 50 year old) me breathless (at least about the amount of time the 28 year old me had), I was delighted to see a new survey (published in the Communications of the ACM, no less) about complexity and voting systems that says some very nice things about the 28 year old me.    The article, written by Piotr Faliszewski, Edith Hemaspaandra, and Lane Hemaspaandra looks at elections and the well known issue of manipulation of elections by giving untruthful representations of one’s preferences.  The authors survey approaches that use computational complexity to protect elections:

This article is a nontechnical introduction to a startling approach to protecting elections: using computational complexity as a shield. This approach seeks to make the task of whoever is trying to affect the election computationally prohibitive. To better understand the cases in which such protection cannot be achieved, researchers in this area also spend much of their time working for the Dark Side: trying to build polynomial-time algorithms to attack election systems.

I have a particular fondness for this issue, since the 28 year old me (and his coauthors) wrote about this:

This complexity-based approach to protecting elections was pioneered in a stunning set of papers, about two decades ago, by Bartholdi, Orlin, Tovey, and Trick.  The intellectual fire they lit smoldered for quite a while, but in recent years has burst into open flame.

Wow!  Now that is a paragraph to send off to my Dean!  I have written about how this approach was ignored for a long while, but is now pretty popular.  It is great to see this coverage in an outlet like CACM.

The article goes on to survey this area, and has lots of nice things to say about those 20 year old papers (“seminal” (twice!), “striking insight”).  And it makes a great case for all the work that has been done since, and issues going forward.  Thanks Piotr, Edith, and Lane:  I enjoyed the survey very much.  And my Dad is visiting, and he too loved reading about what my coauthors and I had done.

From the 50 year old me to the 28 year old me:  “That was pretty good work!”  And, if I can speak for the 28 year old me:  “Thanks!  What are you doing now?” 50 year old me: “Hmmm….. can I tell you about sports scheduling? Blogging? Or perhaps I should introduce you to Alexander?”.  28 year old me: “Wasn’t I the one who met Ilona, with whom you have Alexander?”  50 year old me: “OK, we’ll split that one!”

Different phases, different measures.  But I am impressed with the 28 year old me every time I run across him.

{ 9 } Comments

  1. Sebastian | November 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Michael, I follow your blog.
    You don’t need to post this.
    What’s its point? What do you want us, readers, to take away from it?

    Do you need an injection of self-esteem?

    Ask your family and I’m sure they’ll do that for you.

    Best

  2. Michael Trick | November 24, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Sebastian, I am amazed that anyone can come away from that post with that view. But, hey, if anyone saw that post as an egotistic post, that was not my intent.

    I _am_ proud of what I did 20 years ago, and, as I had hoped the post had pointed out, a bit envious. Why can’t I do that now? But perhaps the detachment between who I am now and who I was 22 years ago is too subtle for blogs.

    You clearly don’t know my family if you suggest I go there for self esteem! They keep me plenty grounded.

  3. Greg Glockner | November 24, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I think Sebastian’s comments are wrong and mean-spirited. Reviewing your old work is a good chance to remember what you were thinking at the time. And despite the old adage about being “older and wiser”, Mike is saying the opposite: he had some good ideas in his youth.

    There may also be a lesson here for parents and teachers: those youngsters might have a few good ideas, too.

  4. Paul Rubin | November 24, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    As an unoffended reader, let me congratulate the 28 year old you. I once read that male mathematicians hit their sexual respectively intellectual peaks at 17 resp. 18. Seems you beat the odds on at least one.

  5. Michael Trick | November 24, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Paul and Greg. I really shouldn’t let one negative comment bother me. I have a whole pile of referee reports (starting with those sent to the 28 year old me up to those sent to the 50 year old me) that are much more hurtful!

  6. adamo | November 24, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I never knew the 28 year old you. I know the 50 year old you thanks to your blog. And thanks to your 50 year old you blogging, I get to see the path you walked. Successful OR people should blog their “walk” (just like those whiskey narratives).

  7. Sebastian | November 25, 2010 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Please don’t get me wrong.
    When I said “You don’t need to post this” is because I already appreciate you.

    It wasn’t my intent to offend, and this was not a negative comment.
    I just wanted to know what were you thinking of when you wrote the post, which you clearly answered, and other commentators did as well.

    I was projecting. If I were to count how many times “seminal” and other positive words appeared in a review of my work, I would consider myself egotistic.
    I apologyze for projecting.

    I have nothing to publish, so I won’t even have the chance to live that.

    Best

  8. Florian | November 25, 2010 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    @Paul:
    There’s this great (though mean) quote from Mark Twain (at least, told so): “Most men die at 27, we just bury them at 72.” – Your “17yrs conjecture” makes things even worse. 😉
    (But for some reason there must be this age limit for the Fields Medal.)
    The one way or the other, I don’t see myself very impressed by my 28 years old me (any time in the future)… – so I have to ignore both restraints (and hope for the best for the, let’s say, 35 years old future me).

    @Mike:
    I don’t think (as far as I can tell from an outsider’s angle) your choice to focus on applications in sports scheduling didn’t pay off. I just stumpled upon the paper formatted presentation of your CPAIOR 2008 master class on sports scheduling (now published in “Hybrid Optimization – The Ten Years of CPAIOR” [http://www.springer.com/mathematics/book/978-1-4419-1643-3]) – which also might have pleased your younger you.
    Regarding the resurgent interest in voting systems (and their algorithmic properties), that doesn’t surprise me too much. We see this kind of recollection in various places, for instance: in Computer Science, declarative programming styles like functional/logic/constraint programming are considered as the next big thing (though they are brainchilds of the 1970s and were widely considered obsolete when I started college), Smalltalk-style object-orientation, typing and message passing oust that what has become known as the “Java school”, the relational model is no more the (only) prevalent paradigm in database system design etc.
    Since voting mechanisms are fundamental to distributed (software) systems architecture and application, both backstage (e.g. consensus protocols for replication, consistency, etc.) and frontstage (recommendation systems, reputation systems, a.s.o. – all things “web-2.0-y”), there’s an obvious demand in broader (and deeper) understanding of voting systems’ characteristics and computational limitations.

  9. Aurelie | November 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Congrats, Mike!

    It’s great to have a paper others recognize as stunning at any age, but it’s even more impressive at 28.

    Just yesterday I blanked out on one of my passwords, which I’d never had a problem with before. Feeling old! Wish I were 28 again.