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Downs vs The Professor Part 1: Why a Kiwi bloke is dressing as a woman at Stanford University

I thought I was so clever.  Day 1 and I was $US10 up and surely (I thought) this Stanford thing wasn’t so hard after all… or was it?

Let me back up – Day 1, lecture 1 at the Stanford Executive Programme, and the topic was Game Theory (only it was called something much more serious sounding – ‘Microeconomics with Names’…).  The Professor called for a volunteer from the audience to play a game; and seconds later I had won $10 from him – although, for full disclosure, I think any fool could have won the first round, he was just explaining the basics of the game The Prisoner’s Dilemma

The lecture theatres and styles of teaching here are certainly different than I remember from my days, (ahem) years ago at university, where the lecturer stood at the front and droned on while the hungover and half asleep students struggled to keep up. Here we have small intimate lecture theatres in the half-round, with just 80 students and the professors just as keen to engage in lively debate with the students as we are with them. But then yes, still the odd hung-over and half asleep person (only we call it jet-lag these days, we are executives after all…).

So Professor Kreps put down real money (greenbacks!) with the proviso – if he loses the simple game, he will pay, but if you lose, you have to pay too. Only I didn’t, I won! $10 mighty US dollars, which is worth, well, less than it used to be in NZD, but still – it’s the principle. 

However, I must have lorded it over him a little too much, because no sooner than I am saying to my classmates “I could buy 3 kg of milk fat solids with this”, than he chooses me ‘randomly’ to play the key part in a role play tomorrow. The female part. In what he reliably informs me is Stanford tradition, ie the men dress in drag. Women’s clothing, in front of CEOs, private equity gurus and Australians. Touché Professor, well played, good way to bring me back down to earth.

As I write this though, I realise it’s possibly all part of the elaborate Game Theory Case Study he is demonstrating, so I have just called his bluff – I have agreed to wear an item of woman’s clothing, IF he agrees to wear an All Blacks Jersey for his next lecture.  I will report back to see if he takes the challenge…

In other news, the launderette here is connected to the internet. If anyone sees this, please let me know when machine #9 is done, I have to ensure my frock is dry for tomorrow.

David Downs is GM products and services for NZTE. He is also the author of No.8 Re-wired.

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