Merry Christmas

Last week, my friends in the UK AI Network asked me how come Santa Claus lives in Finland. My prompt response was that Santa lives in Lapland, a region that is shared between Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia but that the Finns were much faster in understanding the power of branding. To be politically correct, the name Sápmi should be used instead of Lapland, but the Sámi people have some way to go there in changing that misconception.

However, perhaps it is only natural that Finland is Santa’s home. American scientists have discovered how Santa uses nanotechnology to grow presents under the Christmas tree and how he uses the time-space continuum in a clever way in order to make it around the world in such a short time. Since the Finnish government have spent much money on The Finnish Government Agency for Innovation and Technology, this high level of technology can only be expected. Nevertheless, it is apparent that Santa has a rather strict IPR policy since nothing has been distributed as open source. I’m sure that The Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment would be more than happy to use Santa’s device for keeping track of who’s been naughty or nice.

In contrast, European researchers have recently embarked on a non-technical but still very interesting project. The “Explaining Religion” (EXREL) project “seeks to understand both what is universal and cross-culturally variant in religious traditions as well as the cognitive mechanisms that undergird religious thinking and behavior”. The project is funded by the European Commission and some of the sub-projects seem to be applicable to explain even the strong universal belief in Santa, but also the slight variations such as if he really goes down the chimney: “Religious recurrence and variation”, “Creative thinking and religion” and “The role of systemic reinforcement in religious variation”. However the most promising project is “Simulating future trajectories in the domain of religion” since it will predict to how the Santa faith will develop, something the Finns should be especially interested in from an investment perspective.

The close connection between religion, innovation and regional development has been pointed out by the Swedish author and science journalist Maja Hagerman. This relationship might be hard to exploit by the chairman of the Swedish Humanist Association Christer Sturmark, who himself is an ICT entrepreneur. But you never know.

Merry Christmas, believe it or not!

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