ch1 - Chapter 1 Introduction Some Representative Problems...

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Chapter 1 Introduction: Some Representative Problems 1.1 A First Problem: Stable Matching As an opening topic, we look at an algorithmic problem that nicely illustrates many of the themes we will be emphasizing. It is motivated by some very natural and practical concerns, and from these we formulate a clean and simple statement of a problem. The algorithm to solve the problem is very clean as well, and most of our work will be spent in proving that it is correct and giving an acceptable bound on the amount of time it takes to terminate with an answer. The problem itself—the Stable Matching Problem —has several origins. The Problem The Stable Matching Problem originated, in part, in 1962, when David Gale and Lloyd Shapley, two mathematical economists, asked the question: Could one design a college admissions process, or a job recruiting process, that was self-enforcing ? What did they mean by this? To set up the question, let’s first think informally about the kind of situation that might arise as a group of friends, all juniors in college majoring in computer science, begin applying to companies for summer internships. The crux of the application process is the interplay between two different types of parties: companies (the employers) and students (the applicants). Each applicant has a preference ordering on companies, and each company—once the applications come in—forms a preference ordering on its applicants. Based on these preferences, companies extend offers to some of their applicants, applicants choose which of their offers to accept, and people begin heading off to their summer internships. Kleinberg & Tardos first pages 2005/2/1 11:06 p. 1 (chap01) Windfall Software, PCA ZzT E X 11.6
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2 Chapter 1 Introduction: Some Representative Problems Gale and Shapley considered the sorts of things that could start going wrong with this process, in the absence of any mechanism to enforce the status quo. Suppose, for example, that your friend Raj has just accepted a summer job at the large telecommunications company CluNet. A few days later, the small start-up company WebExodus, which had been dragging its feet on making a few final decisions, calls up Raj and offers him a summer job as well. Now, Raj actually prefers WebExodus to CluNet—won over perhaps by the laid-back, anything-can-happen atmosphere—and so this new development may well cause him to retract his acceptance of the CluNet offer and go to WebExodus instead. Suddenly down one summer intern, CluNet offers a job to one of its wait-listed applicants, who promptly retracts his previous acceptance of an offer from the software giant Babelsoft, and the situation begins to spiral out of control. Things look just as bad, if not worse, from the other direction. Suppose that Raj’s friend Chelsea, destined to go to Babelsoft but having just heard Raj’s story, calls up the people at WebExodus and says, “You know, I’d really rather spend the summer with you guys than at Babelsoft.” They find this very easy
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