Altruism Paradoxes and Emergent Security in Distributed Decision-Making

February 21, 2020, Webb 1100

Philip Brown


The web of interconnections between today's technology and society is upending many traditional ways of doing things: the internet of things, bitcoin, the sharing economy, and stories of fake news spreading on social media are increasingly in the public mind. As such, computer scientists and engineers must be increasingly conscious of the interplay between the technical performance of their systems and the personal objectives of users, customers, and adversaries. With the running application example of distributed network routing, I will present recent work studying the design tradeoffs faced by a planner who wishes to influence and optimize the behavior of a group of self-interested users. In particular, we will explore the connections between various notions of decision robustness such as the Price of Anarchy with a new conceptual framework that we term "Emergent Security," which abstractly captures the susceptibility of a distributed system to adversarial manipulation. Ultimately, we seek to develop foundations for a theory of secure socially-networked systems which leverages the decision processes of automated components to enhance overall system security and resilience.

Speaker's Bio

Philip Brown is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
He received the PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara under the supervision of Jason Marden. He received the Master and Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder and Georgia Tech (respectively), between which he developed process control technology for the biofuels industry. Philip is interested in the impact of human social behavior on the performance of large-scale infrastructure and software systems, and studies this by
combining concepts from game theory and feedback control of distributed systems. Philip was a finalist for best student paper at IEEE CDC in 2016 and 2017, and recipient of the 2018 CCDC Best PhD Thesis award from UCSB.