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Gyaan VATSANALYSIS

If everyone had friends from minority groups, would there be less bigotry overall?

In one of my Instagram stories, I wrote about the need for more Hindus to have at least one good Muslim friend. Likewise, upper castes should have one good lower-caste friend. This I proposed would make the Bhakts more empathetic (Bhakts I believe are predominantly upper caste Hindu men).

Note: You can also listen to this blog in my podcast (to subscribe to my podcast channel, search for VATSAnalysis on your favourite podcast platform)

To this suggestion, someone pointed out that this may not help at all.

“Having a friend really makes little to no difference to Bhakts / card carrying RSS member for that matter. The hypocrisy is too deep”, P commented and shared the below cartoon.

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A cartoon by @ellisjrosen. #NewYorkerCartoons

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“All these people have friends. But they consider them friends only until outside their doorstep”, P added. “They never give up on rituals and cultural processes. They stay with the family circles and with those, they have constructed beliefs that make a villain out of minorities.”

Since this ‘friendship ain’t gonna do nothing’ theory was primarily coming from the P’s personal experiences, I wanted to find out if there were studies available, where sociologists / social scientists had tried to test this hypothesis.

Life’s real answers are mostly neither here, nor there – they are somewhere in between! 🙂

Jamil Zaki is the director of The Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab. Following are some insights he shares in his book:

  • In all-white housing projects in US, 75% of residents said they’d dislike living alongside blacks; but in mixed projects, only 25% disliked having black neighbors.
  • In all-white platoons in US, 62% of soldiers opposed integrating the armed forces; but among whites who had been in a mixed platoon, only 7% opposed such integration.

Do you now think there is a possibility of an evidence based support for what I was instinctively thinking? In fact, there’s a name for it – the ‘Contact Hypothesis’.

Bigotry often boils down to a lack of acquaintance.

Gordon Allport, The Nature of Prejudice

The antidote to bigotry that the Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport proposed in his 1954 book was simple – Bring people together – which in psychology, came to be known as the ‘Contact Hypothesis‘.

But Contact doesn’t work all the time. In fact, in some cases, it can actually make things worse.

The Boston commuter train experiment

When each morning at the same time, some Latino passengers were ‘planted’ on a Boston commuter train – and this was done for ten days – it was observed that the white commuters who saw Latinos grew less tolerant of immigration than they had been before.

“Goodwill contact without concrete goals accomplishes nothing”, Allport proposed, followed by recommendations to make such Contact initiatives truly effective (things like giving the groups mutual goals, making the interactions personal etc.)

Allport proposed that for most favorable results of such Contact initiatives, groups should be given equal status (even if one group has more power in real life). But now we know it takes more than that (in part thanks to the Sender-Responder experiment).

The Sender-Responder experiment

Emile Bruneau – Director of the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab at University of Pennsylvania – started with the premise that if one group is silenced for most part in real life, perhaps they should be given greater status when the groups come together.

To test this idea, he paired Mexican immigrants and white U.S. citizens who had never met. In each pair,

  • one person was assigned the role of “sender” – who would write a short essay about the hardships facing their group;
  • the second person – the “responder” – would read the essay and then summarize it in their own words and pass it back.

When white Americans acted as responders (reading what Mexicans wrote and then summed it up themselves), they said they felt better about Mexican immigrants. The Mexican immigrants who acted as senders also felt the same.

But when Mexican immigrants acted as responders (where they had to read about hardships of white Americans), they felt worse about the white Americans.

Brunue tried similar experiments in different contexts and settings and the results were the same. The minority group is already well aware of the majority narrative / perspective. In a sit-down where say both men and women are supposed to share their perspectives, men get to gain real insights; women – not so much.

Women are so keenly aware of the male experience because our entire existence had to be kind of through that lens. Whereas men have never had to understand the female experience in order to exist in the world.

Sarah Silverman (from The War for Kindness)

Contact Hypothesis works, but it works best when it reverses the existing power structure, rather than ignoring it in the name of ‘equality’.

Before I end, let me share another story / experiment from the book – this one is on psychopaths. Psychopaths, by definition, have impaired empathy – they simply don’t care about other people’s emotion. So the question is – IS IT POSSIBLE TO ALTER THE EMPATHY LEVEL OF PSYCHOPATHS TOO?

The short answer is yes! I know I know…

Christian Keysers and his colleagues traveled to prisons around the Netherlands and scanned the brains of both psychopathic and non-psychopathic criminals as they were shown images of people in pain.

As expected, psychopaths didn’t show a mirroring response (activation of mirror neurons takes place in our brain when we feel someone else’s feelings / pains / movement). The non-psychopathic criminals showed such mirroring response.

This may suggest that psychopaths’ lack of empathy is “hardwired” into their brains. But then Keysers’s team ran a second version of the study – the result was no more the same!

The psychopaths were now asked to focus on victims’ pain and to do their best to imagine how it felt. And when the psychopaths did this, their brains mirrored suffering in almost exactly the same way as non-psychopaths!

Bottom-line – with the right nudge, anyone can be triggered to show empathy.

The book of course talks a lot about short-term empathy and long-term empathy and what works when and the need for more research in select areas etc. There is no way I can sum all that up in a blog (nor should I). If you like the premise and whatever little that I have shared, it’s definitely a meaningful read.

As I end, let me leave you with a Ted talk by Jamil Zaki where he touches upon few more aspects of empathy (like his Roddenbery hypothesis). That will be all for this blog – hope your learnt something useful. If you like what I write, do subscribe to my Sunday newsletter.

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Newsletter

Vatsap? 2020 Sep 13 Newsletter

This Sunday, I continue my Myanmar Vlog, share the psychology of why you may have felt odd about Trump being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, question you on whether you should feel proud of Kalpana Chawla, share something on cancer research + my weekly Covid updates and end with a Shitoon.


The Myanmar saga continues

I hope you enjoyed part 1 that I shared last week. Here is the second part of my four part BTS series. You will see me travel to an island in a crazy ferry ride and chase some stories. Feb was fun!

My Myanmar story is all fun and happy but The New York Times had something serious that it brought out this week – on the killings of the Rohingya Muslims in the country. It’s something really worth reading.

The PM equivalent of Myanmar (State Councellor) is an old lady named Aung San Suu Kyi who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 (when she was under house arrest by the country’s military). This week, when I heard about Trump’s nomination for the coveted prize, I really wanted to understand what was happening.

I read up a little on the Nobel Peace Prize and have some interesting insights to share.

Give it a read?

Also, tell me, did you feel proud as an Indian when Kailash Satyarthi won the Prize in 2014? If yes, why? After all, what was your contribution towards his achievement?

I have thought about this “feeling proud” thing for quite some time. I wondered again when I read the news below, this week.

The phenomenon that describes this is called BIRGing and if you have never heard of it before, do check out my short blog on the topic. And then tell me, is it okay for me to feel proud of IIT Madras just because I graduated from it?

I had made a bunch of videos for IITM last year as part of its 60 years celebration (60 videos X 60 second).

One such 60 seconder was published this week – it is about cancer research and I think what is happening in IIT Madras in this area is fascinating (whether or not I feel proud of it).

Now that we are talking about cancer, let’s also quickly touch upon Covid. My weekly updates and projections are out as usual.

India is at 77k+ reported Covid deaths (56 per million) and would cross 1 lakh by month end / Oct first week. Pune is leading the growth where 700+ per million have already died.

Do check out my full analysis where I also explain till when cases / deaths could keep rising.

Enough of grimness; let’s have some laughs at the expense of Covid now, shall we?

Before I end, I drew something this week, so check that out.

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For all the crazy ones out there. @amritvatsa

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This is all that I have to share. If you are in the mood for Netflix reccos – do watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix (thankfully it’s not a series).

Have a great day and a great week, stay safe, spend less time on Social Media, do something good for the world and I will see you again, in a week’s time!

-Amrit

Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 13 Sep update

INDIA IS AT 77K+ REPORTED DEATHS (56 PER MILLION) AS OF NOW AND WILL CROSS 1 LAKH TOTAL DEATHS BY SEP END / OCT FIRST WEEK. PUNE IS LEADING THE GROWTH WITH 700+ PER MILLION DEAD ALREADY.


My big question every week (since May) is, when will India cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths? Total cumulative Covid death toll as of yesterday (12 Sep) stands at 77k+ (actual figure could be as high as twice this value, for various reasons documented here).

For the first time, daily reported deaths every single day in a week remained over 1,000. That’s almost six full capacity A320s crashing and killing everyone on board everyday.

One could try forecasting the future deaths by simply using the existing week-on-week growth in ‘total deaths in a week’.

Yes there are many ups and downs in the weekly growth of Covid deaths but if one has to extrapolate, a 5% to 15% growth range seems to be a good guess?

This is how the forecast looks like, for the three scenarios.

We will cross 1 lakh Covid deaths either by this month end or latest by first week of October.

Alright, let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project cumulative deaths. This requires looking first at cases. Cases are important because even when you don’t die, just being infected could be troublesome.

From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists

ScienceMag.Org

Let’s look at the week-on-week growth rate of ‘total cases in a week’.

6.4 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is 14% higher than the total cases detected the week before (5.6 lakh)

To make sure you understand how growth works, when something grows at 10% every week, that means it will double in a little less than two months (7-8 weeks). If it grows at 15%, it will double in just five weeks and if it grows as slow as 5%, it would take almost 4 months for it to double.

For my projection, I will assume a range of 5 to 15% (X) for week-on-week growth of cases. That’s my assumption #1.

Now in general, people who die of Covid in a given week, are either tested positive the same week, or the week before. Do we have some idea of what %age (Y) of such cases die? We do actually.

7,891 Covid deaths were recorded this week that is basically 1.3% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

In other words, Y for this week is 1.3%. For the future, let’s assume a range from 1% to 1.3%? That’s my assumption #2.

Let’s forecast now…

Let me consider 3 scenarios:

  • X=10%, Y=1.2% (baseline)
  • X=5%, Y=1.1% (optimistic: slower growth in cases + lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=15%, Y=1.3% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases)

With the above assumptions, below chart represents the future cumulative death count:

The indirect method more or less gives a similar estimate as the direct death projection.

India will cross 1 lakh total deaths by early October.

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population (currently we are just over 56 per million Covid deaths).

To what extent would the death toll figures keep going up – before it flattens / peaks?

If we look at other countries, death toll for many started to flatten out only after anywhere between 400 to 600 per million of their population died!! Scary, I know!

Y axis = no. of days (all the countries are arranged in a way that starting point of 10 deaths per million is common to all)

If we assume that for India, the death toll flattens out even at say 200 deaths per million, that would be equivalent to ~3 lakh total deaths!

It’s difficult to imagine why India would see any less no. of deaths than that. Let’s look at some of our cities.

Y axis represents weeks; 1= the week when the city first reached ~10 deaths per million

Pune has already crossed 700 deaths per million and is still quite steep in terms of growth.

Delhi has somehow managed to grow much slower and doesn’t look like it will cross even 200 deaths per million. Mumbai may not be growing as fast as Pune, but it is almost at 400 per million deaths and far from peaking. So that’s the overall range we are looking at (to remind you again, at a country level we are at < 60 per million dead so far).

The only populous countries across the globe where death toll flattened at much lower levels (like say Japan and China) happened when they somehow didn’t let the total deaths cross even 5k (Japan for example didn’t even let it cross 1k). We clearly couldn’t control things to that extent in India (most countries haven’t). So now let’s just be hopeful that the total death cap estimate that I am guessing is on the conservative end – otherwise, we could lose even up to 5 lakh people (or 362 deaths per million)!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (20 Sep). Stay safe.

Categories
Gyaan

Nobel Peace prize, Trump and the Halo effect

In 2009, when I heard Obama had won the Nobel peace prize within months of becoming a US President (meaning he must have been nominated much earlier) – it just felt awfully weird. I drew the below Shitoon.

The above will not appear funny unless you remember a 2009 video that had gone viral, where Obama swats a fly. The video is funny.

Anyway, so I didn’t dig deep much into it then.

When they gave one to Malala few years down the line, I did find it amusing, like many others, but again, didn’t bother to investigate much. Until this happened.

This sounded too ridiculous to be true. But true it was. In fact I learnt that Trump had been nominated earlier too (but obviously didn’t win).

I decided it was time to figure out how such ridiculousness creeps in, in something that is apparently so prestigious that Indians have been offended since long that Gandhi never got one.

By the way, as I am writing this blog, I hear that Trump has been nominated again! Shit gets shittier.

Nomination is of course not the same as winning.

After a bit of reading I now understand that the reason nomination can get ridiculous is because just too many people can nominate any person of their choice. The criteria and the link to submit the nomination-form is accessible to everyone here. There are over 300 nominees this year! Trump is just one of them.

Is it possible then that Modi has been nominated too? Going by the criteria for nomination, yes pretty much possible. One can never officially find out though (true for Trump too).

The Nobel Committee does not itself announce the names of nominees, neither to the media nor to the candidates themselves. In certain cases names of candidates appear in the media. These advanced speculations are either the product of sheer speculation or information released by the person or persons behind the nomination.

Neither the names of nominators nor of nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize may be divulged until the start of the year marking the 50th anniversary of the awarding of a particular prize.

Source – Nobel Peace Prize

Although Gandhi never won, even he was nominated a bunch of times. And given that pretty much anyone can be nominated – so were Hitler and Mussolini. Basically, nomination means shit. They are also forged once in a while.

A 2018 NYT article reports that Trump’s nomination has indeed been forged twice.

Anyway, so who selects the winner from all the nominations? Just a bunch of old people (usually 5 or 6).

The Norwegian Nobel Committee 2020. From left: Thorbjørn Jagland, Henrik Syse (vice chair), Berit Reiss-Andersen (chair), Anne Enger, Olav Njølstad (secretary), Asle Toje.

With all these insights, why does anyone care about the Nobel Peace prize, really?

To find an answer, I read a 2019 book (at least the first chapter) by Geir Lundestad. He was the Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute and the Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee for 25 years (1990 -2014).

Last year (2019), when Lundestad was asked what he thought of Trump ever winning the prize, this is what he said:

I would be extremely surprised if Donald Trump ever received the Nobel Peace Prize. He may say he wants to bring peace to the Middle East or the Korean Peninsula, but he has not accomplished anything. And his policies do not fall into line with the ideas of liberal internationalism.

NYP

As per Lundestad, there are four main reasons that make the Nobel Peace prize “The World’s Most Prestigious Prize”:

  1. It’s 100+ year old
  2. It belongs to a family of prizes (and Nobel Prize for science, economics, literature etc. are hardly as debated + their selection is more sorted / technical)
  3. In spite of few mistakes (not giving one to Gandhi for example – that Lundestad acknowledges in his book) and few controversies here and there (Obama?), the record has mostly been solid.
  4. The prize has proven to be relatively flexible – the peace concept for example has been expanded and the prize has gradually become more global.

The issue with point no. 3 (on track record) is, every time someone like Trump makes a headline, associating himself with the Nobel Peace Prize, it brings down the value of the prize itself. It leads to articles like what ‘The Atlantic’ published today titled “End the Nobel Peace Prize“.

If Trump wins the prize, it will be the fourth Nobel awarded for peace between Israel and its neighbors. That will make Arab-Israeli peace mediators more successful at charming the Nobel Committee than the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has won three times in the prize’s 120-year history, but still less successful than my favorite, which is no one at all. The committee has declined to award a peace prize 19 times.

The record of achievement of the peace laureates is so spotty, and the rationales for their awards so eclectic, that the committee should take a long break to consider whether peace is a category coherent enough to be worth recognizing. Peace had its chance, and blew it.

Graeme Wood, The Atlantic

Before I end this blog, I want to touch upon a different but related topic.

Why did I instinctively find Trump’s nomination ridiculous even before I found out these details?

That’s most likely halo effect at work. Let me explain.

Imagine two random people – Anil and Varun. Following are their traits.

Anil: intelligent-industrious-impulsive-critical-stubborn-envious

Varun: envious-stubborn-critical-impulsive-industrious-intelligent

See how you felt differently about Anil than about Varun (please tell me you did)? I used an illustration from my current favourite book “Thinking, Fast & Slow” (chapter 7) and just added Indian names.

This experiment has been conducted on various people and the conclusion is solid – “the initial traits in the list change the very meaning of the traits that appear later. The stubbornness of an intelligent person is seen as likely to be justified and may actually evoke respect, but intelligence in an envious and stubborn person makes him more dangerous.”

That’s halo effect at work where your brain feels like jumping to a conclusion about a person based on first few information that you gather (you put them in the ‘good’ box or the ‘bad’ box’).

Since Trump is in my ‘bad’ box, my cognitive bias immediately makes me uncomfortable when something like a Nobel Peace prize gets associated with his name.

In fact the halo effect is also a possible explanation for the positive association we have for the Nobel Peace prize itself (point no. 2 from Lundestad – ‘it belongs to a family of prizes’).

The consistently credible Nobel prizes in other disciplines make us view the overall brand in a strong positive light and so even when the nomination / selection and everything else for the Peace prize is totally different, the instinctive part of our brain over-rides the rational, and the brand continues to remain strong!

The below quote from a 2007 Wiki discussions page would be the best way to close this blog.

Some in this discussion have argued that nominations are notable because of the significant publicity given to them. But this is circular: The public gives nominations attention because it mistakenly believes they are notable (as I and many others here believed before looking into it). If Wikipedia decides they are notable because the public does, it will only reinforce the public view that they are notable. If everybody in the world knew all the facts around nominations, it is likely that most would not find them notable.

Source (emphasis is my own)

Hope you learnt something, thanks.


Categories
Gyaan

Are you proud of Kalpana Chawla? Should you be?

So this happened.

If you are an Indian, you must have felt an instinctive emotion of “pride”. We feel proud of the Indian team when they get us the world cup and we feel proud of A R Rahman when he wins an Oscar. But why do we? What have we contributed to their achievements?

What about saying ‘I am proud of my country’?

Religion? Heritage? In all these instances, why are we feeling proud of something to which our contribution has been zilch?

I finally understand it from a cognition / psychological point of view.

Basking in reflected glory (BIRGing) is a self-serving cognition whereby an individual associates themselves with known successful others such that the winner’s success becomes the individual’s own accomplishment.

Wiki

What is the benefit of BIRGing? It boosts your self-esteem.

Disadvantage? BIRGing can be negative when done so extensively that you become delusional or forget the reality that you did not actually accomplish the successful event.

So essentially the ‘instinctive’ reason we BIRG is because the non-rational part of our brain knows it will increase our self-esteem – and that means we can achieve more in life / be more productive etc.

It is only the rational part of the brain, that even asks – ‘but is there any real basis’? Well guess what, no – there is no real basis. At the end of the day, it’s a story that helps us feel good about being part of something bigger than just us.

If you have anything more to add to this, do let me know (other than more jargon like ‘tribalism’, ‘social identity theory’ etc.).

Categories
Shitoon

Shitoon 162 – Live like crazy!

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For all the crazy ones out there. @amritvatsa

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Newsletter

Vatsap? 2020 Sep 06 Newsletter

IN THIS SUNDAY’S NEWSLETTER, I TALK ABOUT MY MYANMAR ADVENTURES, INDIA’S FALLING GDP BUT RISING COVID FIGURES, AKSHAY KUMAR’S VIDEO GAME CONNECTION, ARNAB’S ADDICTION, JAPANESE BODYBUILDERS AND FEMINISM.


I was in Myanmar for two weeks in Feb, on a film-making assignment. When I was not shooting the actual stories, I was Vlogging.

If you have never been to Myanmar, the above fast-paced BTS Vlog will give you a short and sweet peekaboo. What were the stories that I was there to shoot? See the video na? I will release the three remaining parts in the next two weeks.

None of my Myanmar Vlog videos will match the coolness of the video below, though (randomly came across it while browsing YouTube).

How much more time, before the above will be another addition to the banana ride adventure packages sold at Goan beaches?

This flying human almost looks like he is from a video-game, isn’t it? And talking about video-games, of course the news of the week has been FAU-G!

While Akshay Kumar pitched FAU-G as a nation building game, I discovered that it has a weird China connection in itself. Highlighting some irony and some plagiarism, I think my blog on the topic has turned out juicer than a typical mango. You tell me! By the way, guess what Akshay Kumar was trying out in April, this year? The same flying suit from the company you saw above (Gravity Industries). I wouldn’t be surprised if someday he launches his own atmanirbhar (but copied) version of flying suits under the name “Khiladi Industries”.

The mango season may have ended, but the Covid season is going to last a lot longer.

My updated projections on Covid deaths in India are out, as usual. We are at 70k deaths now – of which 30k died in just one month. We will cross 1 lakh deaths in a month (i.e. by early October). You can check out my full analysis for details.

Also, we are at 4 million total positive cases, of which half the figure was recorded in just a month!

Other than India, this week I also specifically looked at Goa (where I live). At the present growth rate of cases and deaths in the state, it looks like the growth could flatten (peak) in October after about 450 more people die (death toll till last week was around 200).

Now, we always knew that the lockdown imposed to control the growth of Covid was hurting our economy. But finally, we know exactly by how much. But do we?

Can we really make sense of the 23.9% decline in the Apr-May-June quarter GDP?

Some are saying it’s a global phenomena. Others are pointing out that comparing different countries is like comparing apples with oranges. I have tried making sense of all the GDP related noise that you may have heard this week.

Now, every industry is trying to come up with creative ways to bounce back to normalcy. But what one restaurant in Japan is doing, is, well, in a league of its own! Just watch the video below.

Most Indian mainstream TV news channels, as expected, continued to discuss Rhea more than the economy or Covid. So, I created some music and made a funny video to salute one such anchor in particular. Hope you like it.

Given that I don’t watch TV at all, such nuisance doesn’t affect me much, personally. All the relevant news that I need to consume, reaches me via my paid subscriptions and Twitter / Insta. And sometimes, from what friends want me to read.

Prachi (also there in the Myanmar Vlog), shared with me a link to this fab comic that explains “benevolent sexism”. I think everyone should check it out (even though it’s a bit of a struggle to read the font-size on the phone; letting you know in advance).

Now that we are on the topic of sexism, let me also touch upon another feminist topic. Some of you may be aware of the Samyuktha Hegde fiasco that happened in a park in Bangalore on Friday. If you are not sure what happened, this NewsMinute article does a good job of summing it up (also has the embedded IGTV video of Samyuktha – which is how I came to know about the incident first).

At the heart of the fiasco is the notion of moral policing. This reminded me of my first viral 3MinuteStory – “Because Rape Is Not Always About Sex”. I had made it six yeas ago, in Bangalore. It has over 1 million views (60% of which were achieved in the first week of the video being published, if my memory serves me right).

This 3MS is more about gender policing than moral policing but I am pretty sure the point made by the girls in the video remains as valid today, as it was then.

That will be all for this Sunday’s newsletter. If you have been liking what I put together for you every Sunday, do ask your friends who you think may like it as much (or more), to subscribe? Here is the subscription link.

Cyao.

Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 06 Sep update

WHILE THE TOTAL DEATH COUNT IS NOW AT 70K, THIRTY THOUSAND INDIANS DIED OF COVID IN JUST PAST ONE MONTH


My big question every week (since May) is, when will India cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths? Total cumulative Covid death toll as of yesterday (05 Sep) stands at ~70k (actual figure could be as high as twice this value, for various reasons documented here).

For the first time, avg daily deaths in a week crossed 1,000. That’s more than 5 full capacity A320s crashing and killing everyone on board everyday – for one full week.

Also notice above how just a month ago (01 Aug) deaths were less than 40k. So basically in just one month, 30k more died.

One could try forecasting the future deaths by simply using the existing week-on-week growth in ‘total deaths in a week’.

Yes there are many ups and downs in the weekly growth of Covid deaths but if one has to extrapolate, a 5% to 15% growth range seems to be a good guess?

This is how the forecast looks like, for the three scenarios.

We will cross 1 lakh Covid deaths either by this month end or latest by first week of October.

Alright, let’s now try a slightly more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project cumulative deaths. This requires looking first at cases.

For many weeks, I had maintained that deaths matter and cases don’t (because if you don’t die, you end up recovering). But someone pointed me this week to the growing evidence of long term effect on those who got infected but didn’t die.

From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists

ScienceMag.Org

Till last month, total positive cases detected was about 2 million and now it’s over 4 million. So basically…

we detected as many new cases in just one month (2 million), as we had ever since the Pandemic hit India.

Let’s look at the week-on-week growth rate of ‘total cases in a week’.

5.6 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is 14.5% higher than the total cases detected the week before (4.9 lakh).

For my projection, I will assume a range of 7 to 15% (X) for week-on-week growth of cases. That’s my assumption #1.

Now in general, people who die of Covid in a given week, are either tested positive the same week, or the week before. Do we have some idea of what %age (Y) of such cases die? We do actually.

7,011 Covid deaths were recorded this week that is basically 1.3% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

In other words, Y for this week is 1.3%. For the future, let’s assume a range from 1% to 1.3%? That’s my assumption #2.

Let’s forecast now…

Let me consider 3 scenarios:

  • X=10%, Y=1.2% (baseline)
  • X=7%, Y=1% (optimistic: slower growth in cases + lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=15%, Y=1.3% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases)

With the above assumptions, below chart represents the future cumulative death count:

The indirect method more or less gives a similar estimate as the direct death projection except in one scenario (optimistic), we may cross 1 lakh deaths only by 10th October.

India will cross 1 lakh total deaths by early October.

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population (currently we are just over 50 per million Covid deaths).

To what extent would the death toll figures keep going up – before it flattens / peaks?

If we look at other countries, death toll for many started to flatten out only after anywhere between 400 to 600 per million of their population died!! Scary, I know!

Y axis = no. of days (all the countries are arranged in a way that starting point of 10 deaths per million is common to all)

If we assume that for India, the death toll flattens out even at say 200 deaths per million, that would be equivalent to ~3 lakh total deaths!

It’s difficult to imagine why India would see any less deaths than that. The only populous countries across the globe where death toll flattened at much lower levels (like say Japan and China) happened when they somehow didn’t let the total deaths cross even 5k (Japan for example didn’t even let it cross 1k). We clearly couldn’t control things to that extent in India (most countries haven’t). So now let’s just be hopeful that the total death cap estimate that I am guessing is on the conservative end – otherwise, we could lose even up to 5 lakh people (or 362 deaths per million)!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (13 Sep). Stay safe.

Categories
general

FAU-G? Like really?

So I saw this update from Akshay Kumar yesterday.

It took me a while to realize this was a direct (and rather lowbrow) take on the recently banned PUBG.

It took me longer to realize that the image used in AK’s poster was just some stock image (most likely a US soldier?)

I also noticed Akshay Kumar specifically mentioned Vishal Gondal and this is where things get interesting.

Vishal is the founder of GOQii and he had invited me and a bunch of other creators / entrepreneurs to his office once in Mumbai (2018), as part of ‘GOQii fellowship‘. Nothing much happened of the fellowship except I ended up following Vishal and some other fellows on twitter and likewise + I got some freebies; still have the t-shirt, it’s nice.

I was impressed by Vishal.

After selling his former startup, Indiagames to Disney in 2011 for approximately USD 100M, Vishal Gondal founded GOQii, a one on one mobile coaching and fitness tracking service.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GOQii

But anyway, that’s that. Since then I did see Akshay Kumar’s face on cover pages of newspapers few times, advertising GOQii. I thought wow, Vishal is really cracking it – he is now able to get Akshay Kumar for his ads!

So when I saw AK tagging Vishal and this company called nCore Games in his FAU-G tweet, I wondered what the connection was. I have now figured it out and it’s interesting.

2015

Fitness Wearable And Coaching Startup GOQii Lands $13.4M Series A From NEA And Cheetah Mobile

Nov 2015, Tech Crunch

Now guess where Cheetah Mobile is based out of? Yes, China!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheetah_Mobile

Gondal says that the addition of Cheetah Mobile, the Beijing-based mobile developer best known for Android utility apps like Clean Master, and GWC, a mobile company network that hosts the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC), will help it gain market share in China.

TC, Nov 2015

At this time of point, via this 2014 Forbes article we know that Vishal has already been manufacturing GOQii devices in China (like any other tech company).

“In the future we’re going to have a tsunami of personal data coming up,” Gondal says. “We’re creating a new breed of professionals whose job is to decipher human data and guide people.”

Forbes, 2014

I have little knowledge of what’s the status in 2020 or what the future plans are. Given that Vishal seems to be part of this atmanirbhar PR campaign now, I only hope GOQii is also moving out of China (if not already)?

2019

nCore Games raises funding from GOQii founder Vishal Gondal

techcircle.in
from nCore website

Yourstory’s recent article in fact mentions Vishal as a co-founder! Anyway, so the above investment happened in March 2019.

And the in April 2019, Akshay Kumar asked the most meaningful question to Modi that was clearly on everyone’s mind.

Two months after the incredible insightful interview above…

The date on the screenshot is the date the screenshot was taken – you can click on the image to see the actual date of publishing on ET’s site.

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar has invested an undisclosed amount in GOQii, as part of the home-grown devices maker’s ongoing Series-C funding round in which it is aiming to raise USD50-70 million.

ET, June 2019

So yeah, I just find all of this very interesting. That’s all. Not all of AK’s investments are undisclosed though. Like…

When you have money, what cannot happen bro?

Here’s a little irony that someone pointed out on Twitter.

Enough food for thought. Time for some real food. 😀

Before I sign off, I want to make it clear that I don’t think I have enough insights to necessarily link all these facts up, and make any solid conclusion. I am not Saket Gokhale or Arnab Goswami.

But what remains undisputed to me is, it’s a cheap thing to use nationalism to make money like this. We Indians can do better.

Like FAU-G, really?

By the way, I have a vague feeling that by the time the game comes out, it will have Modi as a mentor character somewhere. The 3D render for that character is already out there! 😀

That’s all for this blog! Let me end it on a lighter note! 😀

Categories
Covid-times Gyaan

How much of the 23.9% GDP growth fall for India can be attributed to Covid?

Note: This article was updated on 04 Sep 2020 (few days after being first published)


Below is what the BJP twitter handle tweeted on 22 Aug.

They used IMF’s forecast from April, even when IMF already had a negative forecast out in June.

Anyway, so now we know what really happened.

My question is: how much of this drop is from Covid and how much of it has to do with actions from Govt. (typically lockdown). One may say that the action of Govt. is a response to Covid – so they are one and the same thing – but are they? Imagine two scenarios:

  1. Govt. doesn’t do much – the economy still goes down – this is purely because of Covid
  2. Govt. does something – here both factors are at play

So for India, how much of the fall is from Covid and how much is from what Govt. did about it+Covid? Can one attempt to find that out?

To begin with, I think it makes sense to first look at some other countries that were impacted by Covid too, the “Govt. response” being different for each country.

GDP growth fell for all of them – as you can see in the below graph that I put together.

Other than 2020Q2 for India, other figures from OECD

India is the orange line. From the countries that I have chosen, India’s last quarterly growth in 2019 was lower only than China (grey). This was pre-Covid. Also, by growth I mean, when compared to the same quarter the year before.

In the next quarter, China’s GDP growth took the sharpest fall (understandably). Other countries GDP growth fell too, but not as much. In fact, India was doing okay in Jan-Feb-March 2020.

And then Covid spread in India.

In the Apr-May-June quarter, India’s growth fell really really bad. The decline in GDP growth is only better than Peru, a country that is one of the worst hit by Covid (just scroll up and look at the per million deaths for Peru). Peru’s GDP growth fell down by almost 30%.

China is the only country whose growth returned to positive in this quarter. Now you tell me, what explains the orange line (India) falling this bad even when other countries were hit by Covid much worse? Or…

has India’s GDP growth fallen this bad BECAUSE we have not done as bad as most of these other countries in terms of Covid spread?

But if this were the case, what explains Peru? Its cases went up AND its economy fell too – both drastically.

Think about it.

How do you think a GoI’s propaganda channel is spinning the news? Just listen to Arnab describe this “global phenomena”. He literally quotes random numbers for countries like USA and Canada. Is he lying on national TV or am I missing something?

At one point, #GDPTruth was trending at no. 5 on Twitter. Most of them using this hashtag seemed to be paid propagandists whose only job looked like passing this off by calling it a “global phenomena”!

Is comparing India with US / Europe like comparing apples and oranges?

Responding to an earlier draft of this blog, some friends seemed to suggest so.

I agree. No two countries are the same. No two fruits are the same. Not even two apples are same for that matter! Comparison after all is just one way of looking at things – because looking at something in isolation is even more meaningless, no?

If you think about it, the figure of -23.9% itself is a comparison! It compares 2020 quarter 2 GDP with 2019 quarter 2 GDP. But 2020 is not like 2019, so why compare? Everything is apples and oranges – from Global Ease of Doing business rankings to GDP forecasts!

Some also responded to my first draft saying this was expected – we were in lockdown for most of the quarter in question – people were saving money (so drastic drop in demand) – factories couldn’t operate (so supply drop).

Nice. Let me quote Daniel Kahneman from Chapter 19 of his book Thinking Fast & Slow (the chapter is titled “the illusion of understanding”).

The mind that makes up narratives about the past is a sense-making organ. When an unpredicted event occurs, we immediately adjust our view of the world to accommodate the surprise.

Learning from surprises is a reasonable thing to do, but it can have some dangerous consequences.

A general limitation of the human mind is its imperfect ability to reconstruct past states of knowledge, or beliefs that have changed. Once you adopt a new view of the world (or any part of it), you immediately lost much of your ability to recall what you used to believe before your mind changed.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow

BJP now has a nice explainer video.

At least in this video (if you watch from 3.30) BJP admits that IMF changed its 1.1% GDP projection for India to -4.5% in June (unlike my first quoted tweet from 22 Aug where they conveniently ignored this).

That aside, I think the above video is a fair attempt to explain the GDP numbers and we will have to wait till Nov to see how much we recover in Jul-Aug-Sep.

The worst case scenario would be when GDP growth continues to be low and the cases / deaths continue to rise and get as bad as the other countries. Because then, paise bhi gaye or jaan bhi?