Daniel Berdichevsky

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Daniel Berdichevsky
Daniel Berdichevsky 2015.JPG
Daniel Berdichevsky at the 2015 World Scholar's Cup Global Round in Kuala Lumpur
Born Los Angeles, California
Alma mater Harvard University
Stanford University
Occupation Alpaca-in-Chief
Employer DemiDec
Known for

World Scholar's Cup

United States Academic Decathlon accomplishments
Persuasive Technology

Daniel Berdichevsky, also known as DemiDec Dan and "the Alpaca-in-Chief", is a noted figure in international education, the application of online social networks, and in the design of persuasive technologies. Berdichevsky is also the founder of DemiDec, a corporation that provides curriculum for the United States Academic Decathlon, and of the World Scholar's Cup.


Main article: DemiDec

In the 1980s and 1990s, the United States Academic Decathlon had few third-party companies that wrote study materials for students,[1] and individual teams had to do most of the research by themselves.[1][2] Berdichevsky had been part of the Taft High School Academic Decathlon in the 1992–1993 season, but dropped out because he was "too scared of giving a speech".[3] Despite this, Berdichevsky became team leader for the 1993–94 season.[4] Berdichevsky and his teammates would go on to win the United States Academic Decathlon National Championship that year with the help of their coach, Dr. Berchin, who had also led teams to victory in 1989 and 2006.[5] Berdichevsky maintained the highest individual score (9,297 points) in Decathlon history until a slew of high scores in 2008 and 2009 bumped him from the top.[6]

Six weeks after the competition, Berdichevsky and teammate Andrew Salter started creating guides and examinations for the next season.[3][7] Their first year's product was very small and criticized for its errors, though it earned the two almost $20,000 in 5 months.[3][7][8] However, when their old coach Dr. Berchin joined the operation the following year, DemiDec gained more stability and Berdichevsky decided to continue with the venture.[3]

Academic Decathlon[edit]

Berdichevsky was a member of the Board of Directors of the California,[9] Massachusetts, and Maine [10] Academic Decathlon state organizations and was the highest scorer in the Academic Decathlon competition from 1994 to 2008.[4][11] Berdichevsky's development of private preparation materials for the Academic Decathlon is credited by some as having helped move the Academic Decathlon toward publishing its own curriculum booklets.[citation needed]

World Scholar's Cup[edit]

Main article: World Scholar's Cup

Berdichevsky is the founder and curriculum director of the World Scholar's Cup, an international educational foundation that holds academic enrichment tournaments for students around the world.[12] Participating countries include Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya, Slovenia, Chile, Kazakhstan, Korea, the United States, Australia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, India and others.[13]

Persuasive technology and social networks[edit]

Berdichevsky is completing edits on The Psychology of Facebook, a book on Facebook as a persuasive platform, published in mid-2009.[14] He has joined the Board of Advisers of the social learning network FunnelBrain.[15]

Berdichevsky's most well-known theoretical work has been On the Ethics of Persuasive Technology.[16] His first paper in the field was published in Communications of the ACM in 1998 and is studied in design and theory courses at leading universities, including MIT[17] and the University of North Carolina,[18] as well as having been referenced in journal articles.[16]

In the paper, Berdichevsky and co-author Erik Neuenschwander posit a framework for the ethical design of technologies that aim to change user attitudes and behaviors:

What if home financial planning software persuaded its users to invest in the stock market? And what if the market then crashed, leaving the users in financial ruin? Or, more subtly, what if the makers of the software arranged with certain companies to “push” their particular stocks? Would such designs differ in a morally relevant way from stockbrokers who encourage their clients to buy the stocks that earn them bonus commissions? They do, though in unexpected ways. That’s why our exploration of the ethics of persuasive technologies seeks to begin establishing a first set of principled guidelines for their design and implementation. Doing so requires us to apply to this new domain a number of questions (and answers) associated with earlier work in the ethics of persuasion and in the ethics of technology—especially computers. Until now, no one has looked specifically at the convergence of these fields.

Berdichevsky and Neuenschwander propose eight design principles, including what they term the Golden Rule of Persuasion:

The creators of a persuasive technology should never seek to persuade a person or persons of something they themselves would not consent to be persuaded of.

Their design principles were described in David Levy's 2006 book Robots Unlimited: Life in A Virtual Age[19] as "add[ing] to those responsibilities imposed on robots and their designers by Asimov's Laws."[20]

In 2005, Berdichevsky co-authored another article, Analyzing the ethics of persuasive technology, on the subject.[21]


In 2001, Berdichevsky was the associate managing director of VentureNova,[22] a $9,000,000 venture fund financed by Casio Computer Corporation to invest in Internet appliances.[23]


  1. ^ a b Wolcott, Holly J. (February 7, 2000). "Simi High Advances to State Contest in Academic Decathlon; Education: Defending national champion Moorpark High places second at county level, but may compete further as a wild-card selection.". Los Angeles Times. p. B9. 
  2. ^ Hetzner, Amy (March 11, 2000). "Waukesha's Catholic Memorial makes it a four-peat in Academic Decathlon, School sets state record for points, looks forward to national competition". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 
  3. ^ a b c d Berdichevsky, Daniel. "The DemiDec Story". Archived from the original on April 10, 2009. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Lowrey, Brandon (February 8, 2009). "Students flex at Academic Decathlon QUIZ: Marshall takes top spot El Camino Real and Palisades tie for 2nd-place honors". Los Angeles, California: Daily News. Retrieved May 27, 2014. 
  5. ^ Goldman, Abigail (April 18, 1994). "Taft High Wins 2nd Academic Decathlon" (fee required). Los Angeles Times. p. A1 (Metro). Retrieved September 29, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Academic Decathlon Top Individual Scorers". 
  7. ^ a b Guzman, Isaac (December 18, 1994). "Duo With All the Answers Share Secrets Education: High school Academic Decathlon champions graduate to more lucrative trade by selling practice exams for the elite competition. But some customers say that the pair didn't do their homework.". Los Angeles Times. pp. B1. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  8. ^ Guzman, Isaac (December 11, 1994). "Smart Money Ex-Academic Decathlon Champs Cashing In on Practice Exams". Los Angeles Times. pp. B1. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Board of Directors". California Academic Decathlon. Retrieved June 19, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Board of Directors". Maine Academic Decathlon. Retrieved November 3, 2009. 
  11. ^ Bakkalis, Anna (2008-04-28). "Moorpark team vies in Academic Decathlon". Ventura County Star. 
  12. ^ Lee, Min-yong; Seo Ji-eun (May 28, 2009). "Teamwork key to winning Scholar's Cup: Competition tests students' skills across a range of subjects". JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Daily. Retrieved June 19, 2009. 
  13. ^ "The World Scholar's Cup". DemiDec Resources. World Scholar's Cup. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Psychology of Facebook - Dr. BJ Fogg". Archived from the original on 2008-09-01. Retrieved April 8, 2015. 
  15. ^ "FunnelBrain and DemiDec Partner to Bring Academic Decathlon Flashcards Online". Vocus PRW Holdings, LLC. Los Angeles, California: PRWeb. June 3, 2009. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  16. ^ a b Berdichevsky, Daniel; E. Neunschwander (1999). "Toward an ethics of persuasive technology". Communications of the ACM. 42 (5): 51–58. doi:10.1145/301353.301410. 
  17. ^ Intille, Stephen (September 6, 2005). "Designing Persuasive Environments and Technologies Syllabus - Fall 2004". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on June 19, 2009. Retrieved June 19, 2009. 
  18. ^ Wildemuth, Barbara M. (August 24, 2005). "INLS 105, Information Ethics, UNC-CH, Fall 2005, Accuracy of Information/Software:". University of North Carolina. Retrieved June 19, 2009. [permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Levy, D. (2005). Robots Unlimited: Life in a Virtual Age. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781568812397. Retrieved April 8, 2015. 
  20. ^ Levy, David. Robots Unlimited: Life In A Virtual Age. A.K. Peters: 2006.
  21. ^ Berdichevsky, Daniel; B. J. Fogg, Ramit Sethi & Manu Kumar (2005). "Captology Notebook: Ethics of Persuasive Technology (new article)". Stanford University. Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab. Archived from the original on February 9, 2009. Retrieved June 19, 2009. 
  22. ^ Myszewski, David (June 5, 2000). "Ethics and the Academy: Flattery And Privacy: Persuasive Technology". Stanford Review. Stanford University. XXIV (5). Retrieved June 19, 2009. 
  23. ^ "VentureNova Receives $9 Million Investment From Casio; New Seed Fund to Invest in Companies Developing Net Connected Device Technologies". BNET. January 5, 2001. Retrieved June 19, 2009.