Here’s a message I received from Amol Shaila Suresh:
Hi Prof. Alex,
Last year, I started preparing for entrance exams of India’s premiere universities for masters in economics. I am an ‘engineering’ undergrad, turned to development sector. When I decided to do masters in economics, I had a huge 6 years educational gap and was amateur to the field. Mrs. Ashwini Kulkarni (whom you visited in Nashik, India to understand onion market) recommended me to check out “Marginal Revolution University” website for econ videos.
Following her advice, I completed micro and macro courses on mru.org and only then touched other reference books (be it Mankiw, Blanchard, Varian, Debraj, etc.) MRU videos helped me immensely in grasping basic economics concepts and made my preparation so smooth that I scored highly in many university entrance exams. Being from non-econ background with 6 years education gap & that too self-study, it was quite a satisfying performance.
Yesterday, South Asian University in New Delhi declared its result and I am at #13 on the merit list across India. It has been a dream to crack the SAU entrance and study development economics there. And I made it!
Sir, I am writing this whole story in detail to convey how huge this has been for me. I can not thank you and Prof. Cowen more. I referred to plenty of resources on the internet, but MRU as starter was exceptional and saviour for me! Without MRU, I may have struggled and who knows I could have given up to the subject which was alien to me.
Thank you sooooo much sir!
Look forward to meeting you in person in your next India trip! 🙂
Congratulations Amol! Everyone at MRU is thrilled to have helped. We love stories like this.
Addendum: Here’s the post about my trip to the Lasalgaon Onion Market which apparently had ripple effects.
Note that it is not necessary to approve of all U.S. cultural exports to view the spread of wokeism as a net positive for the world. I do not like either Big Macs or Marvel movies, for instance. But at the end of the day I think American culture is a healthy, democratizing, liberating influence, so I want to extend it.
As the motivational speakers like to say, Winners win! And woke is right now one of America’s global winners. Part of what makes America great, and could help to make the rest of the world greater yet, is accepting a certain amount of semi-stupid, least-common-denominator culture.
It drives conservatives and libertarians crazy that woke ideas often have more purchase in the private sector than in the public sector. Private universities, for example, seem “more woke” than public universities.
Still, you read it here first (or maybe not): The halls of power in Washington just aren’t that woke! They are nothing like Twitter or Google or Yale University.
Yes, many woke opponents cite the role of government and the fear of lawsuits as forces driving woke behavior and corporate attachment to wokeism. And surely they have a point. Yet in much of the corporate and nonprofit world, wokeism is not merely a reflexive defense against lawsuits. It is embraced with enthusiasm.
Wokeism has passed a market test that has been going on for decades.
And in sum:
The arguments have been so fully joined because they are about how to define success, which is the fundamental American ideology. I believe such debates are not only healthy but also necessary. I also believe that the ideology of success will endure, though it may take less familiar forms over time. In some ways wokeism is what a feminized, globalized version of 21st century U.S. triumphalism looks like.
You don’t have to like that. But you may have to get used to it.
Recommended, do read the whole thing.
Angad Daryani / Praan
Angad Daryani is 22-year-old social entrepreneur and inventor from Mumbai, and his goal is to find solutions for clean air at a low cost, accessible to all. He received his EV grant to build ultra-low cost, filter-less outdoor air purification systems for deployment in open areas through his startup Praan. Angad’s work was recently covered by the BBC here.
Swasthik Padma is a 19-year-old inventor and researcher. He received his EV grant to develop PLASCRETE, a high-strength composite material made from non-recyclable plastic (post-consumer plastic waste which consists of Multilayer, Film Grade Plastics and Sand) in a device called PLASCREATOR, also developed by Swasthik. The final product serves as a stronger, cost-effective, non-corrosive, and sustainable alternative to concrete and wood as a building material. He is also working on agritech solutions, desalination devices, and low cost solutions to combat climate change.
Ajay Shah is an economist, the founder of the LEAP blog, and the coauthor (with Vijay Kelkar) of In Service of the Republic: The Art and Science of Economic Policy, an excellent book, covered by Alex here. He received his EV grant for creating a community of scholars and policymakers to work on vaccine production, distribution, and pricing, and the role of the government and private sector given India’s state capacity.
Meghraj Suthar, is an entrepreneur, software engineer, and author from Jodhpur. He founded Localites, a global community (6,000 members from more than 130 countries) of travelers and those who like to show around their cities to travelers for free or on an hourly charge. He also writes inspirational fiction. He has published two books: The Dreamers and The Believers and is working on his next book. He received his EV grant to develop his new project Growcify– helping small & medium-sized businesses in smaller Indian cities to go online with their own end-to-end integrated e-commerce app at very affordable pricing.
Jamie Martin/ The Queen’s English
Jamie Martin and Sandeep Mallareddy founded The Queen’s English to develop a tool to help speak English. Indians who speak English earn 5x more than those who don’t. The Queen’s English provides 300 hours of totally scripted lesson plans on a simple Android app for high quality teaching by allowing anyone who can speak English to teach high quality spoken English lessons using just a mobile phone.
Rubén Poblete-Cazenave is a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam. His work has focused on studying topics on political economy, development economics and economics of crime, with a particular interest in India. Rubén received his EV grant to study the dynamic effects of lockdowns on criminal activity and police performance in Bihar, and on violence against women in India.
Chandra Bhan Prasad
Chandra Bhan Prasad is an Indian scholar, political commentator, and author of the Bhopal Document, Dalit Phobia: Why Do They Hate Us?, What is Ambedkarism?, Dalit Diary, 1999-2003: Reflections on Apartheid in India, and co-author author (with D Shyam Babu and Devesh Kapur) of Defying the Odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs. He is also the founder of the ByDalits.com e-commerce platform and the editor of Dalit Enterprise magazine. He received his EV grant to pursue his research on Dalit capitalism as a movement for self-respect.
Praveen Tiwari is a rural education entrepreneur in India. At 17, he started Power of Youth to increase education and awareness among rural students in his district. To cope with the Covid lockdown he started the Study Garh with a YouTube channel to provide better quality educational content to rural students in their regional language (Hindi).
Preetham R and Vinayak Vineeth
Preetham R. and Vinayak Vineeth are 17-year-old high-schoolers from Bangalore. Preetham is interested in computing, futurism and space; and Vinayak is thinking about projects ranging from automation to web development. They received their EV grant for a semantic text analysis system based on graph similarity scores. The system (currently called the Knowledge Engine) will be used for perfectly private contextual advertising and will soon be expanded for other uses like better search engines, research tools and improved video streaming experiences. They hope to launch it commercially by the end of 2022.
Shriya Shankar is a 20-year-old social entrepreneur and computer science engineer from Bangalore and the founder of Project Sitara Foundation, which provides accessible STEM education to children from underserved communities. She received her EV grant to develop an accessible ed-tech series focused on contextualizing mathematics in Kannada to make learning more relatable and inclusive for children.
Baishali Bomjan and Bhuvana Anand
Baishali and Bhuvana are the co-founders of Trayas Foundation, an independent research and policy advisory organization that champions constitutional, social, and market liberalism in India through data-informed public discourse. Their particular focus is on dismantling regulatory bottlenecks to individual opportunity, dignity and freedom. The EV grant will support Trayas’s work for reforms in state labor regulations that ease doing business and further prosperity, and help end legal restrictions placed on women’s employment under India’s labor protection framework to engender economic agency for millions of Indians.
Akash Bhatia and Puru Botla / Infinite Analytics
Infinite Analytics received their first grant for developing the Sherlock platform to help Indian state governments with mobility analysis to combat Covid spread. Their second EV grant is to scale their platform and analyze patterns to understand the spread of the Delta variant in the 2021 Covid wave in India. They will analyze religious congregations, election rallies, crematoria footfalls and regular daily/weekly bazaars, and create capabilities to understand the spread of the virus in every city/town in India.
Vishnuprasad is a 21-year-old BS-MS student at IISER Tirupati. He is interested in the intersection of political polarization and network science and focused on the emergence and spread of disinformation and fake news. He is working on the spread of disinformation and propaganda in spaces Indians use to access information on the internet. He received his EV grant to build a tool that tracks cross-platform spread of disinformation and propaganda on social media. He is also interested in the science of cooking and is a stand-up comedian and writer.
Prem Panicker is a journalist, cricket writer, and founding editor of peepli.org, a site dedicated to multimedia long form journalism focused on the environment, man/animal conflict, and development. He received an EV grant to explore India’s 7,400 km coastline, with an emphasis on coastal erosion, environmental degradation, and the consequent loss of lives and livelihoods.
Vaidehi Tandel is an urban economist and Lecturer at the Henley Business School in University of Reading. She is interested in understanding the challenges and potential of India’s urban transformation and her EV grant will support her ongoing research on the political economy of urbanization in India. She was part of the team led by Malani that won the EV Covid India prize.
Abhinav recently completed his Masters in the Behavioral and Computational Economics program at Chapman University’s Economic Science Institute. His goal is to make political economy ideas accessible to young Indians, and support those interested in advancing critical thinking over policy questions. He received his EV grant to start Polekon, a platform that will host educational content and organize seminars on key political economy issues and build a community of young thinkers interested in political economy in India.
CONTACT was founded by two engineers Ann Joys and Bevin A. as a low-cost, voluntary, contact tracing solution. They used RFID tags and readers for consenting individuals to log their locations at various points like shops, hotels, educational institutions, etc. These data are anonymized and analyzed to track mobility and develop better Covid policies, while maintaining user anonymity.
Onkar Singh Batra
Onkar Singh is a 16-year-old developer/researcher and high school student in Jammu. He received his first EV grant for his Covid Care Jammu project. His goal is to develop India’s First Open-Source Satellite, and he is founder of Paradox Sonic Space Research Agency, a non-profit aerospace research organization developing inexpensive and open-source technologies. Onkar received his second EV grant to develop a high efficiency, low cost, nano satellite. Along with EV his project is also supported by an Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) grant. Onkar has a working engineering model and is developing the final flight model for launch in 2022.
Storysurf, founded by Omkar Sane and Chirag Anand, is based on the idea that stories are the simplest form of wisdom and that developing an ocean of stories is the antidote to social media polarization. They are developing both a network of writers, and a range of stories between 6-300 words in a user-friendly app to encourage people to read narratives. Through their stories, they hope to help more readers consume information and ideas through stories.
Naman Pushp/ Airbound
Airbound is cofounded by its CEO Naman Pushp, a 16 year old high-schooler from Mumbai passionate about engineering and robotics, and COO Faraaz Baig, a 20 year old self-taught programmer and robotics engineers from Bangalore. Airbound aims to make delivery accessible by developing a VTOL drone design that can use small businesses as takeoff/landing locations. They have also created the first blended wing body tail sitter (along with a whole host of other optimizations) to make this kind of drone delivery possible, safe and accessible.
Anup Malani / CMIE / Prabhat Jha
An joint grant to (1) Anup Malani, Professor at the University of Chicago, (2) The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), and (3) Prabhat Jha, Professor at University of Toronto and the Centre for Global Health Research, to determine the extent to which reported excess deaths in India are due to Covid. Recent studies show that that the pandemic in India may be associated with between 3 million to 4.9 million excess deaths, roughly 8-12 times officially reported number of COVID deaths. To determine how many of these deaths are statistically attributable to Covid, they will conduct verbal autopsies on roughly 20,000 deaths, with the results to be made publicly available.
Aditya Dar/The Violence Archive
A joint grant to Aaditya Dar, an economist at Indian School of Business, Kiran Garimella, a computer scientist at Rutgers University and Vasundhara Sirnate, a political scientist and journalist for creating the India Violence Archive. They will use machine learning and natural language processing to develop an open-source historical record of collective public violence in India over 100 years. The goal is to create accessible and high-quality public data so civil society can pursue justice and governments can make better policy.
Those unfamiliar with Emergent Ventures can learn more here and here. EV India announcement here. More about the winners of EV India second cohort here. To apply for EV India, use the EV application click the “Apply Now” button and select India from the “My Project Will Affect” drop-down menu.
Note that EV India is led and run by Shruti Rajagopalan, I thank her for all of her excellent work on this!
A few of you asked for follow-ups, given my discussion with Ezra Klein. Here is one paper that makes me skeptical:
Exploiting admission thresholds in a Regression Discontinuity Design, we study the causal effects of daycare at age 0–2 on cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes at age 8–14. One additional month in daycare reduces IQ by 0.5% (4.5% of a standard deviation). Effects for conscientiousness are small and imprecisely estimated. Psychologists suggest that children in daycare experience fewer one-to-one interactions with adults, which should be particularly relevant for girls who are more capable than boys of exploiting cognitive stimuli at an early age. In line with this interpretation, losses for girls are larger and more significant, especially in affluent families.
That is sometimes called the Bologna preschool paper, and it is by Fort, Ichina, and Zanella. More generally, there is the question of whether a society will produce more top performers with the state as nanny, or with the parents as nanny. Maybe we don’t know, but my intuition suggests with the parents. Here are some other reservations, and here are more yet. It is difficult to show lasting benefits from preschool. Here is the most extensive study I have seen, and it shows negative results for preschool. Or consider this RCT. Symbolically I am not crazy about the idea of building systems that imply human life is about “schooling” almost from the get go. I don’t think the literature to date is conclusive, but I do think the case for preschool still remains to be made.
Talking with Ezra is always both fun and enlightening for me, here is his partial summary of the episode:
So we begin this conversation by discussing the case for and against economic growth, but we also get into lots of other things: why Cowen thinks the great stagnation in technology is coming to an end; the future of technologies like A.I., crypto, fourth-generation nuclear and the Chinese system of government; the problems in how we fund scientific research; what the right has done to make government both ineffective and larger; why Cowen is skeptical of universal pre-K (and why I’m not); whether I overestimate the dangers of polarization; the ways in which we’re getting weirder; the long-term future of human civilization; why reading is overrated and travel is underrated; how to appreciate classical music and much more.
Phoebe Yao, founder and CEO of Pareto, “a human API delivering the business functions startups desperately need.” Here is the Pareto website. She was born in China, formerly of Stanford, and a former classical violist. (By my mistake I left her off of a previous cohort list, apologies!)
BeyondAging, a new group to support longevity research.
Gavin Leech, lives in Bristol, he is from Scotland, getting a Ph.D in AI. General career support, he is interested in: “Personal experimentation to ameliorate any chronic illness; reinforcement learning as microscope on Goodhart’s law; weaponised philosophy for donors; noncollege routes to impact.”
Valmik Rao, 17 years old, Ontario, he is building a program to better manage defecation in Nigeria.
Samantha Jordan, NYU Stern School of Business, with Nathaniel Bechhofer, for a new company, “Our platform will accelerate the speed and quality of science by enabling scientists to easily manage their data and research pipelines, using best practices from software engineering.” Also a Progress Studies grant.
Nina Khera, “I’m a teenage human longevity researcher who’s interested in preventing aging-related diseases, especially those related to brain aging. In the past, I’ve worked with companies like Alio on computation and web-dev-based projects. I’ve also worked with labs like the Gladyshev lab and the Adams lab on data analysis and machine learning-based projects.” Her current project is Biotein, about developing markers for aging, based in Ontario.
Amir Rubin and Eran Rubin have a clever new paper in the JPE on strategic citations (SSRN). In order to obtain publications in top-tiered journals, get invited to conferences, become a reference and so forth:
…authors may cite top-tier journals as a way to enhance their relationships with those journals.They may further consider the preferences of top-tier journals’ referees for such citations. Typically, these referees serve more than one top-tier journal, which they potentially even more appreciate as quality signals and whose top-tier status they wish to preserve by receiving citations. Consequently, authors may consider the expected positive impact of top-tier journal citations in satisfying referees.
Rubin and Rubin have a unique test of this behavior. For administrative reasons, the Journal of Business, a top journal in finance, stopped publication in 2006. Thus, after 2006, there were fewer strategic reasons to cite JOB papers even though the scientific reasons to cite these papers remained constant. The authors test this by matching articles in the JOB with articles in similar journals published in the same year and having the same number of citations in the two years following publication–thus they match on similar articles with a similar citation trajectory. What they find is that post-2006 the citation count of the JOB articles falls substantially off the expected trajectory. The figure below illustrates.
The finding is robust to controlling for self-citations, own-journal citations, and a variety of other possibilities. The authors also show that deceased authors get fewer citations than matched living authors. For example, living Nobel prize winners get more citations than dead ones even when they were awarded the prize jointly.
Rubin and Rubin suggest this bias might be correctable with more metadata on citations. Negative citations, for example, can be very informative about the development of a scientific field. I am not sure the problem is big enough to worry about but I was impressed by how much strategic behavior can be uncovered by clever data analysis. I was also convinced I should be more strategic in my citations.
At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5%, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group. U.S. colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students compared with five years ago, and men accounted for 71% of the decline, the Journal analysis found.
This education gap, which holds at both two- and four-year colleges, has been slowly widening for 40 years. The divergence increases at graduation: After six years of college, 65% of women in the U.S. who started a four-year university in 2012 received diplomas by 2018 compared with 59% of men during the same period, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
In the next few years, two women will earn a college degree for every man, if the trend continues, said Douglas Shapiro, executive director of the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse.
Here is more from Douglas Belkin at the WSJ.
Ultimately, hiring outsiders is always going to be fraught. But I think Katsenelson was on to something with a ploy he used a few years ago to recruit an analyst. Determined to find someone who really cared about investment research, not just money, he devised a tediously time-consuming job advert. It asked candidates to list all the books they had read in the past 12 months; talk about the three books — and two people — who had influenced them most; provide a stock idea analysis and write a cover letter to say why not hiring them would be a massive mistake.
About 50 applications came in, only a dozen of which answered each question. But the successful candidate is still with the firm and for Katsenelson, “it worked out great”. This tactic won’t suit every company, or every job. But I bet it does better than the average algorithm.
Here is more from Pilita Clark from the FT.
We all give people “tests” when we meet them, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Here are two of mine:
1. The chess test. When I played chess in my youth, I would commonly analyze games with other players. You would then rapidly learn just how much and how quickly the other player could figure out the position and see imaginative variations. Some players maybe had equal or even inferior results to mine (I had a good work ethic and took no drugs), but it was obvious they were greater talents at analysis. Top chess players who worked with Bobby Fischer also attest that in this regard he was tops, not just “another great player.” That was true even before he was good enough and steady enough to become world champion.
When talking ideas with people, the same issue surfaces — just how quickly and how imaginatively do they grasp what is going on? You should put aside whatever they have or have not accomplished. How much do they have this Bobby Fischer-like capacity to analyze? No matter what their recent results have been (remember how Efim Geller used to kick Fischer’s butt in actual games?).
2. The art test. Take a person’s favorite genres of art, music, whatever. But something outside of their work lives. Maybe it can even be sports. How deeply do they understand the said subject matter? At what kind of level can they talk about it or enjoy it or maybe even practice it?
Remember in Hamlet, how Hamlet puts on a play right before the King’s eyes, to see how the King reacts to “art”?
Here we are testing for sensibility more than any kind of rigorous analysis, though the analysis test may kick in as well. Just how deep is the person’s deepest sensibility?
If you are investing in talent, you probably would prefer someone really good at one of these tests over someone who is “pretty good” at both of them.
3. All other tests.
Now, people can be very successful while failing both “the chess test” and “the art test.” In fact, most successful people fail both of these tests. Still, their kinds of success will be circumscribed. They are more likely to be hard-working, super-sharp, and accomplished, perhaps charismatic as well, while lacking depth and imaginative faculty in their work.
Nonetheless they will be super-focused on being successful.
I call this the success test.
Now if someone can pass the chess test, the art test, and the success test with flying colors…there are such people!
And if the person doesn’t pass any of those tests, they still might be just fine, but there will be a definite upper cap on their performance.
I appeared on his podcast, and we discussed trust, Jamaica and Trinidad, what you can learn from visiting funerals for five years, what I want for my non-funeral and why, social media and outreach, neurodiversity and autism, the importance of Kant and Hegel, and more.
Fox’s Tucker Carlson, the most important nationalist voice in America, seemed to sympathize with the gender politics of Taliban-supporting Afghans. “They don’t hate their own masculinity,” he said shortly after the fall of Kabul. “They don’t think it’s toxic. They like the patriarchy. Some of their women like it too. So now they’re getting it all back. So maybe it’s possible that we failed in Afghanistan because the entire neoliberal program is grotesque.” (By “neoliberalism” he seems to mean social liberalism, not austerity economics.)
From Michelle Goldberg (NYT), that in a nutshell is the case for the feminization of society, which I see as bringing strongly positive net benefits for both men and women, in most but by no means all cases.
Do note that if you ever see me describing this feminization in not entirely glowing terms, that is part of my desire to give you the entire unvarnished picture, as I would with most other topics. (The most common reading mistake you can make in these parts is to over-infer an entire mood affiliation from a single post.)
When it comes to feminization, I also think sometimes of my grade and junior high school gym teacher, Mr. O (I will omit his full name, but in fact we also called him “Mr. O”). He acted like a tough guy, but in fact was just a…grade school gym teacher. Nonetheless he acted as if he was auditioning for the role of Patton in a Hollywood movie.
He smoked his cigarillos (?) in that kind of plastic thing-y, like the Penguin did on the original Batman show.
If a smaller or less athletic kid took a tough spill, or was picked on by the others, he would say “Suck it up, kid!”, with little sympathy. (If you are wondering, the worst he ever said to me was “That was a stupid foul, kid,” in a fifth-grade basketball contest. So I didn’t bear a personal grudge against him.)
He seemed to love the game of Bombardment, as in fact I did too. (I still remember being one of the last two men standing, but losing to Jimmy Gravelis, who caught my too-weak toss.)
He was a Roman Catholic and a veteran of the Korean War. He seemed to stare too long at the boys entering and leaving the shower, after the exercise period of gym. But no one really questioned this.
Even as a kid, I thought he was a bit…sick and also over the top. In some ways though he was a good teacher and he definitely maintained discipline. Kids were afraid of him. And he toughened them up for the world to come.
Still, at the end of the day I am not wishing to return to the cultural ascent of Mr. O.
I would rather live in a more feminized world, even if I still miss Bombardment. But if you are not a fan of this new arrangement…hey, “Suck it up kid!”
Addendum: You might argue that I had the best of both worlds, namely to grow up in the “tougher” society, but live most of my life in the more feminized society — maybe so!
Tony Kulesa, a biomedical venture capitalist, has a very nice new piece up about how Emergent Ventures works. He overrates me in particular, but the overall account is quite accurate and insightful, and the piece is based on a considerable amount of detailed research. Here is one excerpt:
Tyler’s success at discovering and enabling the most talented people before anyone else notices them boils down to four components:
- Distribution: Tyler promotes the opportunity in such a way that the talent level of the application pool is extraordinarily high and the people who apply are uniquely earnest.
- Application: Emergent Ventures’ application is laser focused on the quality of the applicant’s ideas, and boils out the noise of credentials, references, and test scores.
- Selection: Tyler has relentlessly trained his taste for decades, the way a world class athlete trains for the olympics.
- Inspiration: Tyler personally encourages winners to be bolder, creating an ambition flywheel as they in turn inspire future applicants.
Self-recommended! The piece is interesting throughout, and has much social science in it.
About half is about India, including on how to construct an ideal India trip and also on the legacy of British colonialism. The other half is his very careful, memory-rich questions about earlier MR posts. I was happy with how it turned out…
Bus drivers are in such short supply that EastSide Charter School in Wilmington, Del., is offering parents $700 to drop off and pick up their children for the school year.
The article is interesting throughout. It turns out there is a shortage of bus drivers, a shortage of buses with working AC (chip issues), and some schools are flush with cash due to government stimulus.