Gary Becker in a Web-Chat, Interviewed by Dubner

Not long ago, Levitt solicited your questions for the economist Gary Becker. Dubner interviewed Becker for a new project called Expert Insight (see BusinessWeek writeup here), whereby various “experts” — in economics, poker, golf, etc. — can be booked for web-chats. Becker is, as always, fascinating and far-ranging, covering everything from immigration policy and organ transplantation to (at the suggestion of a reader, natch) Jersey Shore. Here’s the Becker/Dubner web-chat in its entirety.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

VB in NV

Thanks, Stephen, for the view up your nose.

Stephen J. Dubner

VB -- I know, I know. It's ridiculous. Why, after all these years, do webcams still make us (or me, at least) look like hippos in a fun-house mirror? Regrets :-)

Jonathan Baird

Excellent conversation! Bravo Freakonomics!


Interesting that you would do this series after harping so much on the book Future Babble.


wow dubner, 3500 per hour huh?

Dana Chandler

Very cool concept.

For people interested in the idea of expert markets, you should check out the Gerson Lehrman Group ( They are a multibillion dollar a year business and have large "expert networks" where you can find people to talk to on many topics (mostly business-related). Primarily it's used by i-banks, private equity funds and consultants to quickly find "expert insight" before going through with an M&A. The GLG value-add is to improve matches and likewise reduce search costs for its customers and they have a large staff that documents people's expertise and collects feedback on each interview and a rich knowledge mgmt (KM) system.

Video has many advantages over other media; however, one huge downside is that it's not easily searchable. Therefore, even if you've saved the recording, it's re-use value is substantially diminished. If I'm rich enough, this may not be a big deal. If I forget one of the pearls of wisdom from my preferred expert, I could just call the person the following week. Still, you can imagine cases where being able to record and re-use these interviews may be important.

Interactive transcripts are a great way to maximize the value from these expert exchanges. Interactive transcripts simply integrate text and video so that you can search and click on text and immediately jump to that point on the video. YouTube has an interactive transcripts feature ( and SpeakerText sells transcription and has an interactive transcript software ( One could imagine taking this further and creating "wordles" ( out of the transcript that further increase their value. These all seem to be nice add-ons that Expert Insights might add to increase the value it provides as a middleman.

The future possibilities of capturing expertise and making it transfer more easily through technology seem endless. Khan Academy ( offers an amazing education of what innovative use of video can do for education. Imagine if within organizations and workplaces all of the one-off conversations that currently take place and get lost in the ether could instead be captured, shared, and re-used as part of a company's training materials.

Dana Chandler



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