Designing Large-scale Nudge Engines

Professor Balaji Prabhakar
Professor, Stanford University
Given on: February 28, 2013


In many of the challenges faced by the modern world, from overcrowded road networks to overstretched healthcare systems, large benefits for society come about from small changes by very many individuals. We survey the problems and the cost they impose on society; we describe a framework for designing “nudge algorithms”, and for modeling and analyzing their effectiveness. We then present results from a series of pilots conducted in Bangalore, at Stanford and in Singapore. Some salient themes are the use of mobile, cloud and social networking technology for sensing individual behavior, and the use incentives to nudge the behavior.


Balaji Prabhakar is a faculty member in the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Stanford University. His research interests are in computer networks; notably, in designing algorithms for the Internet and for Data Centers. Recently, he has been interested in Societal Networks: networks vital for society's functioning, such as transportation, electricity and recycling systems. He has been involved in developing and deploying incentive mechanisms to move commuters to off-peak times so that congestion, fuel and pollution costs are reduced. He has been a Terman Fellow at Stanford University and a Fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has received the CAREER award from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Erlang Prize, the Rollo Davidson Prize, and delivered the Lunteren Lectures. He is a co-recipient of several best paper awards.