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One of the activities I enjoy is creating interactive visualizations of legal (and other) concepts. My preferred medium for this endeavor is the Wolfram Demonstrations site (http://demonstrations.wolfram.com/). I write up some Mathematica code inside a notebook and submit it the site editors. They review it for both content and appearance — pretty darned carefully in my experience — and then, after a few iterations of ironing out bugs and issues, it is made available on the Demonstrations website. People all over the world can then use my creation. And it’s free and not much more challenging than downloading a PDF file. Just as right now you interact (passively) with a PDF file my downloading a PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat (just once) and then downloading usually concise PDF files with particular information, so too with Demonstrations. You do a one-time download of the free Mathematica Player. Then, you can download content (.nbp files) from the Demonstrations site. There are now over 3,000 Demonstrations on topics ranging from biology to chemistry to math to economics and — yes — to law. 

Which brings me to the Adverse Selection Demonstration. The idea is that we have a bunch of prospective insureds that have different degrees of risk and different degrees of risk aversion. The Demonstration lets you see how classification systems affect the well-being of these insureds. You can set various parameters such as the heterogeneity of risk and risk aversion amongst the pool as well as the classification system used. I used it in class and I think it shows pretty well the issues associated with insurance classification.

One of the nice things about getting to teach what you write about is that it gives you an interactive feedback loop that lets you improve your product. And one of the nice things about the Demonstrations project is that you are able to revise your work easily. Try that with a law review article! So, some of my experiences in actually using the Demonstration in a classroom setting gave me ideas on how to improve the interface and, to a lesser extent, the content.

Indeed, my experiences teaching it this time around have given me an idea for a new Demonstration — Adverse Selection With Inaccurate Risk Perception, in which we’ll take a look at how insurer and insured misperception of risk levels affects the purchase and underwriting of insurance. 

By the way, I love collaboration on Demonstrations. If anyone wants to work with me on insurance-related stuff or other material, let me know.

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