Monday, January 31st, 2022

Letter from the Director, January 2022

Dear friends,

Collaborative research is proceeding apace in Calvin Lab, amid the various health and safety regulations. This semester we’re hosting 136 long-term visitors in our Causality and Learning and Games programs, and we look forward to a vibrant semester with them. Omicron willing, we are hoping for blue skies, and many workshops and results in the months to come. 

Machine learning algorithms are increasingly applied to situations where the input data is gathered from many self-interested parties, and their outputs are used as actions in strategic scenarios. Therefore, a theoretical framework for such algorithms has to bring together the areas of learning theory, game theory, and mechanism design. The program on Learning and Games at the Simons Institute has kicked off with the ambitious agenda to catalyze the development of theoretical foundations spanning these three areas. Concurrently, the Causality program considers the broad foundational question of how to infer/discover causal relationships. Answering this question involves not only making causal inferences from observed data, but also designing experiments and interventions. Boot camps held over the past two weeks have provided a great introduction to a diverse set of topics that these programs are grappling with.

Earlier this month, I shared the news that Venkat Guruswami has joined the Institute as our senior scientist. For this issue of the newsletter, we sat down with Venkat to discuss his background, interests, and aspirations for his role at the Institute. I’m pleased to share that interview with you here.

In our SimonsTV corner this month, we have Dan Malinsky’s presentation on Classical Strategies and Concepts in Causal Discovery, from the Causality Boot Camp.

At the Institute, we are also busily planning our 10th-anniversary symposium, which will take place May 25 through 27, 2022. I look forward to sharing more information with you as it becomes available, and hope to see all of you there.

And finally, we’ve been having some beautiful sunsets in Berkeley this month. Enjoy these images I snapped in the hills.

Best regards,

Shafi Goldwasser
Director, Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing