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Grant McDermott

Economics.
Environment.
Data science.

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I mentioned the other day that I acted as moderator for the recent TEDxBergen conference. Videos of the various talks have now been posted online, but here are two that I particularly enjoyed as a sample.

1) Mads Nordmo gave a talk on moral psychology, which challenges the traditional "transactional" view of behaviour \(-\) as is favoured by a lot of economic theory.

Mads is actually doing a PhD with me \(-\) albeit in the strategy department \(-\) and also has a degree in clinical psychology. His opening remark about showing that "it wasn't just beginner's luck" was in reference to a quip that I made about him winning a 'Best lecturer' award from NHH bachelor students. (Link in Norwegian.)

He used various examples to underscore his points, including the growing popularity of CrossFit and the paleo diet.[*] For instance, a purely transactional view provides us with very little insight into why people pay such exorbitant sums of money to join CrossFit gyms. The exercises mostly require far less equipment than ordinary gyms and we could all do as many sit-ups and push-ups as we want at home (for free!). However, Mads argued that these "movements" actually constitute a quasi-religious experience \(-\) much like we would encounter at a rock concert or sports match \(-\) where the sense of communal spirit and exaltation actually enable participants to achieve some kind of transcendence.

In the Q&A afterwards (not shown), I suggested that economics would normally explain the high membership fees paid to crossfit gyms as a commitment device. Mads agreed that this too is an important psychological driver. However, there is at the least no reason to regard such phenomena as mutually exclusive. (Interestingly, he also said that psychology is moving closer to economics... not simply the other war around, as is often asserted in some heterodox circles.) Anyway, he is a smart and funny guy, and I think that both traits are evident in his talk. Check it out:




2) The Grammy-nominated violinist, Peter Sheppard Skærved talked about reinvention and finding new purposes for old tools. Peter is a fascinating person \(-\) the Library of Congress has described him as a polymath \(-\) and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to him about a range of topics, from anthropology to haptic technology, over the course of the day. In this video, he not only makes a compelling case for preserving "museum pieces" by actively using them as much as possible, but also treats the audience to a range of music pieces from across the ages.

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[*] As someone who has a number of friends into (at least one of) CrossFit and the paleo diet, I freely admit that I am predisposed towards finding this discussion both amusing and enlightening.