FF Daily #470: Early Indians

September 9, 2021: When elephant and dragon went to online schools; How VCs work; Optometry classes

Founding Fuel

[By Peter (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), via Flickr]

Good morning,

If you haven’t read the very provocative Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From by Tony Joseph, may we urge you to? He raises some compelling questions and deploys the most recent advances in science to arrive at answers. By way of example, he wrestles with the question of where did modern humans first arrive in India.  

“Until a few decades ago, this would have been considered a reasonable question, because the theory that modern humans evolved in different parts of the world separately, from archaic or extinct members of the Homo species such as Homo erectus that had spread out all over Eurasia by about 1.9 million years ago, was still prevalent—even though Charles Darwin had suggested the African origin of modern humans as early as in 1871. The theory was that the later intermingling of very differently evolved populations kept us together as one species, thus preventing us from branching off into different species in different continents.

“But this theory has now gone into the dustbin and no serious scientist anywhere puts this forward as a possibility any more (though there may be some isolated holdouts especially in China which, till very recently at least, was wedded to the idea of indigenous, independent evolution of the Chinese people from archaic humans). The reasons why this theory went into disuse are both archaeological and genetic. The fossil record of Africa is rich with the remains of our closest relatives… But the clinching argument against multiple origins of humans on different continents is genetic. The DNA evidence has been conclusive that modern humans outside of Africa are all descendants of a single population of Out of Africa (OoA) migrants who moved into Asia sometime after 70,000 years ago and then spread around the world, perhaps replacing their genetic cousins such as Homo neanderthalensis along the way. All recent discoveries have gone on to reaffirm the African origins of all modern humans. As recently as in June 2017 came the news that an ancient skull from a cave in Jebel Irhoud, about fifty kilometres from the city of Safi in Morocco, has been classified as belonging to the Homo sapiens species and was dated to about 300,000 years ago.”

Stay safe and have a good day! 

In this issue

  • When elephant and dragon went to online schools 
  • How venture capital works
  • Optometry classes 

When elephant and dragon went to online schools 

Contrasting India’s openness to private education with China’s crackdown on edtech, Rohan D’Souza, professor at the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University, writes that “the elephant and the dragon are clearly going their separate ways and their respective responses to education is the dividing line”. 

He writes, “the bottom line for the Chinese Communist Party is the realisation that ed-tech, if unchecked, could easily become in quick time a huge private capacity within Chinese society that would parallel the CPC in having information on the psychological and behavioural profile of future and even admitted party members. The monopoly, in other words, in knowing and monitoring the intimate life-worlds of its ruling elites would no longer be exclusively held by the CCP.

“There are good reasons, therefore, to believe that the July crackdown on the entire ed-tech industry in China was a deeply informed political decision rather than a logistical or humanitarian response by the Chinese government. The CCP, clearly, intends to produce, sustain and cultivate China’s ruling and administrative elites primarily through public assets. The private sector and its incredible digital capacities, hence, it seems, are firmly and surely being contained and efforts are now on to block it from spilling over into China’s powerful and delicately poised political realm.”

Dig deeper

How venture capital works

The venture capital business is looked at by those from outside the domain with much fascination. That’s because the industry’s working appears opaque to those outside it. That is why this piece by Nathan Baschez that attempts to deconstruct its working by deploying metaphors from sport had our attention. Baschez is co-founder of @Every, a writer’s collective focused on business. 

“Some people think venture capital is like soccer, where performance is mostly a function of how talented and trained everyone on the team is. They see it as a game where fund managers go on a playing field every day, and the smartest and hardest-working people win the best deals. Sure, some teams are persistently good, but that’s mostly because winning teams attract the best talent, which helps them keep winning. Once the team steps on the field, none of the structural advantages matter. You just have 22 people doing their best.

“That’s not how VC works. Venture capital is more like Formula 1 racing, where the structural disparities between teams plays a more active role in determining the results of each race. In F1, as in soccer, winning teams attract winning players, but there’s also an additional important force: race performance depends on both the driver and the car. Even the best driver would rarely win if they were driving an average or below-average car. A huge part of the competition is not just between drivers, but between engineering teams.

“The thing is, it costs a ton of money to build a car capable of winning, and some teams have much more money than others. To illustrate the disparity: this year so far, Red Bull has won 7 races, Mercedes has won 4 races, and Alpine has won 1 race—but only because Red Bull’s car was damaged and Mercedes made a rare mistake. There are 7 other teams in F1, but none have won a race yet this year.

“Because of this disparity, even though Formula 1 is technically one league, fans view the top, middle, and bottom teams as almost like separate divisions. When someone from the bottom finishes in the midfield, it can be an even more impressive accomplishment than a top team winning.

“This is more like how venture capital works.”

Dig deeper 

Optometry classes

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