Alumni Who’ve Made a Difference - David Pennock

David PennockDavid Pennock (PhD CSE ‘99), Principal Research Scientist at Yahoo! Research, was recently named to MIT Technology Review’s list of 35 “top technology innovators under age 35 for 2005. Pennock is one of a growing vanguard of economically literate computer scientists who are teaming with computationally-literate economists to create the trading bazaars of the digital age. To Pennock, nearly everything is tradeable - from traditional goods (think eBay) to more ephemeral objects like user’s clicks on a web page (sponsored search auctions) or speculative bits of information (financial futures, derivatives, and gambling markets).

Pennock’s most notable work is in the area of information markets. He and his colleagues have examined the computational process and speed of information propagation in an information market, and the computational complexity and algorithms required for an auctioneer to simultaneously match-up opposing speculative wagers expressed as arbitrary Boolean logic formulas. Pennock has analyzed a number of real online information markets, and shown that even fake-money Internet games can have a surprising ability to predict the future success of whatever is being bartered.

Pennock’s most recent invention is the dynamic parimutuel market, a new financial auction mechanism good for low-liquidity environments found in derivatives trading and information markets. The dynamic parimutuel is featured in Yahoo!’s Tech Buzz Game, a high-tech fantasy market used to gauge traders’ collective wisdom about technology trends. Players try to predict what technologies will be popular with web searchers. To find out more about this game, and begin to play yourself, go to: http://buzz.research.yahoo.com.

Pennock has three patents in progress in the area of electronic commerce and the WWW, including a new financial framework for web search advertising, where impressions and clicks aren’t simply sold by search engines to advertisers, but are actively traded back and forth in analogy to today’s commodity futures exchanges. Pennock says that such “search futures” might “open up a whole new world of hedging and speculating.” Pennock has over 50 academic publications in conferences and journals. His work has been featured by Discover Magazine, New Scientist, CNN,The New York Times, The Economist and several other publications.

Prior to his current position at Yahoo!, Pennock worked as a research scientist at NEC Research, and in 2001 served as an adjunct professor at Pennsylvania State University. At Michigan, Pennock worked with Michael Wellman, a professor in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Wellman describes Pennock as, “an extremely innovative researcher, well positioned to exert continuing technical impact on prediction markets, sponsored search, and other areas of Internet life.”

Pennock is program co-chair of the 2006 ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce (EC’06), which will be held June 11-15, 2006 in Ann Arbor, MI. This conference is sponsored by the ACM Special Interest Group on Electronic Commerce (SIGecom), chaired by Prof. Wellman.

[EECS News Spring/Summer 2006]