working towards the future that i know is possible

During the Bacculaureate ceremony, when Randall Kennedy was imploring us to use our expensive educations to work towards the benefit of society, my friend turned to me and asked, “Do you think coupon allocation is going to save the world”? (in reference to my thesis topic.) I was upset most of all because she hit upon a very fundamental paradox I’ve faced being a student of operations research (& ‘financial engineering’), and also a steadfast acolyte of critical and cultural studies – especially the criticism of neoliberal capitalism.

I don’t think that coupon allocation will save the world, but I do think that the advancement of fundamental research on optimization and learning will support initiatives such as healthcare personalization, humanitarian logistics, that are opportunities for advancing intelligent decision-making that supports the public good. Couching such research in the language of computational marketing in order to maintain a veil of respectability/applicability/potential fundability is a unconscious (?) choice I’ve made, or a product of my unwillingness to commit to a handwavy contextual, domain-dependent story. I’m not interested in computational marketing per se but I do think it’s a useful language to adopt to maintain a baseline level of applicability.

I think further opportunities are possible, which I’ll endeavor to collect in this collection for future reference.